Radiocarbon dating is one of the best known archaeological dating techniques available to scientists, and the many people in the general public have at least heard of it. But there are many misconceptions about how radiocarbon works and how reliable a technique it is. Radiocarbon dating was invented in the s by the American chemist Willard F. Libby and a few of his students at the University of Chicago: in , he won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the invention. It was the first absolute scientific method ever invented: that is to say, the technique was the first to allow a researcher to determine how long ago an organic object died, whether it is in context or not. Shy of a date stamp on an object, it is still the best and most accurate of dating techniques devised.
How has radiocarbon dating changed archaeology? | HowStuffWorks
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Radiocarbon dating is a technique for determining the age of very old objects consisting of organic carbon-based materials, such as wood, paper, cloth, and bone. The technique is based on the fact that both stable and radioactive isotopes of carbon exist. These isotopes behave almost identically in biological, chemical, and physical processes. Radioactive carbon is formed in the atmosphere when neutrons produced in cosmic ray showers react with nitrogen atoms.