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Author Topic: Carbon dating  (Read 3953 times)

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Carbon dating
« on: 05/12/2005 13:54:37 »
I don't know about you, but I've never really wanted to take a piece of carbon for a good night out!
Anyway, how does it work? Many times I've heard words to the effect of "Carbon dating shows this to be 3000 years old", and that puzzles me. How can this technique indicate when something was made?
As far as I can make out, it's something to do with the decaying of a certain isotope of carbon. Does this mean that there was none of this isotype in the raw materials used? IF there was, how can the approximate date of manufacture be ascertained?
I could understand it, maybe, for items made from wood as, I suppose, absorption from the environment would stop when the branch was cut or the tree felled. But what about clay pots? What happens to the carbon at the precise time of manufacture that allows the item to later be dated?


 

ROBERT

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Re: Carbon dating
« Reply #1 on: 05/12/2005 15:59:15 »
The carbon 14:12 ratio changes after the carbon based life has died:-

http://science.howstuffworks.com/carbon-142.htm

Food remains or charring on ceramic (clay) artifacts would provide a source of carbon to provide a date,
 or vegetable (plant) material from the soil layer in which the artifact was found ,
(e.g. to date non-organic flint tool).
« Last Edit: 05/12/2005 16:12:49 by ROBERT »
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: Carbon dating
« Reply #2 on: 05/12/2005 16:10:26 »
ROBERT - that confirmed what I thought about dating organic artifacts. But what about inorganic items such as clay pots?
 

another_someone

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Re: Carbon dating
« Reply #3 on: 05/12/2005 17:06:35 »
quote:
Originally posted by DoctorBeaver

ROBERT - that confirmed what I thought about dating organic artifacts. But what about inorganic items such as clay pots?



My understanding is that you would not date the bulk of a ceramic pot in this way, but you could use other isotopes (e.g. uranium decay) to date ceramics (or you simply date the bot of carbon that was lying next to the pot, and hope they are of the same age).
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: Carbon dating
« Reply #4 on: 05/12/2005 17:28:21 »
quote:
or you simply date the bot of carbon that was lying next to the pot, and hope they are of the same age


DId they have bots in those days? :D

OK, I think you've cleared things up a bit for me
 

another_someone

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Re: Carbon dating
« Reply #5 on: 05/12/2005 19:25:33 »
quote:
Originally posted by DoctorBeaver

DId they have bots in those days? :D




Strictly speaking, 'bot' is an abbreviation of 'robot', which is the Slavic word for 'worker' (cognate with the German 'arbeiter').  I'm sure they had workers, even carbon based workers, in those days. :D
« Last Edit: 05/12/2005 19:26:10 by another_someone »
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: Carbon dating
« Reply #6 on: 05/12/2005 19:51:35 »
*shuts up*
 

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Re: Carbon dating
« Reply #6 on: 05/12/2005 19:51:35 »

 

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