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The Radiocarbon Revolution Since its development by Willard Libby in the 1940s, radiocarbon (14C) dating has become one of the most essential tools in archaeology.Radiocarbon dating was the first chronometric technique widely available to archaeologists and was especially useful because it allowed researchers to directly date the panoply of organic remains often found in archaeological sites including artifacts made from bone, shell, wood, and other carbon based materials.Atomic Number: 6 Atomic Weight: 12.0107 Melting Point: 3823 K (3550°C or 6422°F) Boiling Point: 4098 K (3825°C or 6917°F) Density: 2.2670 grams per cubic centimeter Phase at Room Temperature: Solid Element Classification: Non-metal Period Number: 2 Group Number: 14 Group Name: none What's in a name? Three naturally occurring allotropes of carbon are known to exist: amorphous, graphite and diamond. Carbon is most commonly obtained from coal deposits, although it usually must be processed into a form suitable for commercial use.Alone, or in concert, these factors can lead to inaccuracies and misinterpretations by archaeologists without proper investigation of the potential problems associated with sampling and dating.To help resolve these issues, radiocarbon laboratories have conducted inter-laboratory comparison exercises (see for example, the August 2003 special issue of Radiocarbon), devised rigorous pretreatment procedures to remove any carbon-containing compounds unrelated to the actual sample being dated, and developed calibration methods for terrestrial and marine carbon. Radiocarbon dating can be used on either organic or inorganic carbonate materials.
It can also be pressed into shapes and is used to form the cores of most dry cell batteries, among other things.In contrast to relative dating techniques whereby artifacts were simply designated as "older" or "younger" than other cultural remains based on the presence of fossils or stratigraphic position, 14C dating provided an easy and increasingly accessible way for archaeologists to construct chronologies of human behavior and examine temporal changes through time at a finer scale than what had previously been possible.The application of Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) for radiocarbon dating in the late 1970s was also a major achievement.All artificially produced graphite is of the alpha type.
In addition to its use as a lubricant, graphite, in a form known as coke, is used in large amounts in the production of steel.Radiocarbon dating is especially good for determining the age of sites occupied within the last 26,000 years or so (but has the potential for sites over 50,000), can be used on carbon-based materials (organic or inorganic), and can be accurate to within ±30-50 years.