How does radiocarbon dating work? Radiocarbons are a form of carbon atoms chemically the same as stable carbon, but they possess two extra neutrons and are not stable. Since humans and animals get their carbon atoms from food, the ratio of carbon in the body and in the atmosphere is pretty much always the same. When life stops, so does the intake of carbon atoms. But the radiocarbons, since they are given to decay, gradually break down into nitrogen atoms over time. So radiocarbon dating works by measuring the amount of stable carbon against the amount of radiocarbon left in the tissue. From this, we get an age in radiocarbon years. (Aardsma, 1999)

After finding the radiocarbon age, it is necessary to calibrate the radiocarbon date. This is because even though the amount of radiocarbon in the atmosphere is similar world-wide, it does fluctuate from time to time. Calibration accounts for the error in radiocarbon fluctuation in the atmosphere around the specific date. The modern method for calibration is by tree-ring chronologies. (Beta Analytic, 2012)

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