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An additional problem with carbon-14 dates from archeological sites is known as the "old wood" problem.It is possible, particularly in dry, desert climates, for organic materials such as from dead trees to remain in their natural state for hundreds of years before people use them as firewood or building materials, after which they become part of the archaeological record.Techniques include tree rings in timbers, radiocarbon dating of wood or bones, and trapped-charge dating methods such as thermoluminescence dating of glazed ceramics.Coins found in excavations may have their production date written on them, or there may be written records describing the coin and when it was used, allowing the site to be associated with a particular calendar year.

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Some scientists prefer the terms chronometric or calendar dating, as use of the word "absolute" implies an unwarranted certainty of accuracy.

Absolute dating provides a numerical age or range in contrast with relative dating which places events in order without any measure of the age between events.

In archaeology, absolute dating is usually based on the physical, chemical, and life properties of the materials of artifacts, buildings, or other items that have been modified by humans and by historical associations with materials with known dates (coins and written history).

Argon, a noble gas, is not commonly incorporated into such samples except when produced in situ through radioactive decay.

The date measured reveals the last time that the object was heated past the closure temperature at which the trapped argon can escape the lattice.

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