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Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. 1979, 1986 © Harper Collins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012 Cite This Source radiocarbon dating A technique for measuring the age of organic remains based on the rate of decay of carbon 14.

Because the ratio of carbon 12 to carbon 14 present in all living organisms is the same, and because the decay rate of carbon 14 is constant, the length of time that has passed since an organism has died can be calculated by comparing the ratio of carbon 12 to carbon 14 in its remains to the known ratio in living organisms. Our Living Language : In the late 1940s, American chemist Willard Libby developed a method for determining when the death of an organism had occurred.

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(Examples of each method, respectively, are dendrochronology, carbon-14, archaeomagnetism, and the known year a city was destroyed.) Relative dating is based on stratigraphy (the tendency of younger layers to lie over older layers) and comparison of artifacts from undated sites to sites where dates are established.

All dating methods have limitations and can be complicated by turbation, or mixing, of layers by human or natural actions.

A form of radiometric dating used to determine the age of organic remains in ancient objects, such as archaeological specimens, on the basis of the half-life of carbon-14 and a comparison between the ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-14 in a sample of the remains to the known ratio in living organisms. A technique for measuring the age of organic remains based on the rate of decay of carbon 14.

The carbon 14 present in an organism at the time of its death decays at a steady rate, and so the age of the remains can be calculated from the amount of carbon 14 that is left. The cells of all living things contain carbon atoms that they take in from their environment.

Dating methods in archaeology establish the time and sequence of events that created archaeological deposits and layers, called strata, within those deposits. Absolute dating relies on biological, chemical (radiometric), geological/electromagnetic, or historical investigation to obtain the date range of a deposit.Because atmospheric carbon 14 arises at about the same rate that the atom decays, Earth's levels of carbon 14 have remained fairly constant.Once an organism is dead, however, no new carbon is actively absorbed by its tissues, and its carbon 14 gradually decays.Adrian Grahams began writing professionally in 1989 after training as a newspaper reporter.His work has been published online and in various newspapers, including "The Cornish Times" and "The Sunday Independent." Grahams specializes in technology and communications.

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Carbon 14 is continually being created in the Earth's atmosphere by the interaction of nitrogen and gamma rays from outer space.

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