Kris Hirst Definition: Radiocarbon dating uses the amount of Carbon 14 (C14) available in living creatures as a measuring stick.All living things maintain a content of carbon 14 in equilibrium with that available in the atmosphere, right up to the moment of death.
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So, for example, if a tree was used as a support for a structure, the date that tree stopped living (i.e., when it was cut down) can be used to date the building's construction date.
Studies have indicated that the amount of carbon in the atmosphere has not remained constant, and beginning about 1500 BC, dates provided by radiocarbon are too recent.
These dates become farther off the older the time is indicated.
Calibration of radiocarbon dates to offset the error is accomplished by a fairly complicated set of formulas, but they primarily use comparison to dendrochronology dating referents.
Because of the rates of decay, radiocarbon dating is not useful for sites older than 50,000 years old.