Dating techniques in anthropology

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One of the most widely used and well-known absolute dating techniques is carbon-14 (or radiocarbon) dating, which is used to date organic remains.

This is a radiometric technique since it is based on radioactive decay.

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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.

By measuring the carbon-14 in organic material, scientists can determine the date of death of the organic matter in an artifact or ecofact.

The relatively short half-life of carbon-14, 5,730 years, makes dating reliable only up to about 50,000 years.

For this reason, many archaeologists prefer to use samples from short-lived plants for radiocarbon dating.

The development of accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) dating, which allows a date to be obtained from a very small sample, has been very useful in this regard.

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