History of radioactive dating

They also sampled artifacts from museums such as a piece of timber from Egyptian pharaoh Senusret III’s funerary boat, an object whose age was known by the record of its owner’s death.

Among the first objects tested were samples of redwood and fir trees, the age of which were known by counting their annual growth rings.

In a system where carbon-14 is readily exchanged throughout the cycle, the ratio of carbon-14 to other carbon isotopes should be the same in a living organism as in the atmosphere.

However, the rates of movement of carbon throughout the cycle were not then known.

Known as radiocarbon dating, this method provides objective age estimates for carbon-based objects that originated from living organisms.

The “radiocarbon revolution” made possible by Libby’s discovery greatly benefitted the fields of archaeology and geology by allowing practitioners to develop more precise historical chronologies across geography and cultures.

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