Before radiocarbon dating

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Before Present (BP) years is a time scale used mainly in geology and other scientific disciplines to specify when events occurred in the past.Because the "present" time changes, standard practice is to use 1 January 1950 as commencement date of the age scale, reflecting the fact that radiocarbon dating became practical in the 1950s.

Probably the most important factor to consider when using radiocarbon dating is if external factors, whether through artificial contamination, animal disturbance, or human negligence, contributed to any errors in the determinations. Carbon has different isotopes, which are usually not radioactive; C is the radioactive one, its half-life, or time it takes to radioactively decay to one half its original amount, is about 5,730 years.The relatively short-lived C taken into organic matter is also slightly variable. However, under about 20,000 years the results can be compared with dendrochronology, based on tree rings.Rasmus Nyerup's quote reminds us of the tremendous scientific advances which have taken place in the 20th century.In Nyerup's time, archaeologists could date the past only by using recorded histories, which in Europe were based mainly on the Egyptian calendar.

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