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This technique works well for materials up to around 50,000 years old.

Each radioactive isotope decays by a fixed amount, and this amount is called the half-life.

Desmond Clark (1979) wrote that were it not for radiocarbon dating, "we would still be foundering in a sea of imprecisions sometime bred of inspired guesswork but more often of imaginative speculation" (Clark, 1979:7).

Writing of the European Upper Palaeolithic, Movius (1960) concluded that "time alone is the lens that can throw it into focus".

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.

A child mummy is found high in the Andes and the archaeologist says the child lived more than 2,000 years ago.

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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.What methods do they use and how do these methods work?

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