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Shells of known age collected prior to nuclear testing have also been dated ( to ascertain the effects of old carbon (i.e., local marine reservoir effects). However, the most common materials dated by archaeologists are wood charcoal, shell, and bone. In brief, radiocarbon dating measures the amount of radioactive carbon 14 (14C) in a sample.
Radiocarbon analyses are carried out at specialized laboratories around the world (see a list of labs at: When a biological organism dies, the radioactive carbon in its body begins to break down or decay.
History, anthropology, and archaeology are three distinct but closely related bodies of knowledge that tell man of his present by virtue of his past.
Historians can tell what cultures thrived in different regions and when they disintegrated.
This process of decay occurs at a regular rate and can be measured.
By comparing the amount of carbon 14 remaining in a sample with a modern standard, we can determine when the organism died, as for example, when a shellfish was collected or a tree cut down.
Anthropologists can describe a people’s physical character, culture, and environmental and social relations.
Archaeologists, on the other hand, provide proof of authenticity of a certain artifact or debunk historical or anthropological findings.
There is a greater part of man’s unwritten past that archaeology has managed to unravel.
Shell may succumb to isotopic exchange if it interacts with carbon from percolating ground acids or recrystallization when shell aragonite transforms to calcite and involves the exchange of modern calcite.
The surrounding environment can also influence radiocarbon ages.
The unstable and radioactive carbon 14, called radiocarbon, is a naturally occurring isotope of the element carbon.
When a living thing dies, it stops interacting with the biosphere, and the carbon 14 in it remains unaffected by the biosphere but will naturally undergo decay.