It is often used on valuable artwork to confirm authenticity.
Free 5-day trial Ever wondered how scientists know the age of old bones in an ancient site or how old a scrap of linen is?
The technique used is called carbon dating, and in this lesson we will learn what this is and how it is used. Carbon dating, or radiocarbon dating, is a method used to date materials that once exchanged carbon dioxide with the atmosphere. In the late 1940s, an American physical chemist named Willard Libby first developed a method to measure radioactivity of carbon-14, a radioactive isotope.
However, once the organism dies, the amount of carbon-14 steadily decreases.
By measuring the amount of carbon-14 left in the organism, it's possible to work out how old it is.
Once the organism dies, the amount of carbon-14 reduces by the fixed half-life - or the time required for half of the original sample of radioactive nuclei to decay - of 5,730 years, and can be measured by scientists for up to 10 half-lives.
Measuring the amount of radioactive carbon-14 remaining makes it possible to work out how old the artifact is, whether it's a fossilized skeleton or a magnificent piece of artwork.
Radiocarbon dating has been used extensively since its discovery.
Examples of use include analyzing charcoal from prehistoric caves, ancient linen and wood, and mummified remains.
Carbon-14 is a radioactive isotope and is present in all living things in a constant amount.