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Thank you for your feedback. Animals eating those plants in turn absorb Carbon as well as the stable isotopes. This process of ingesting C continues as long as the plant or animal remains alive.


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C Decay Profile The C within an organism is continually decaying into stable carbon isotopes, but since the organism is absorbing more C during its life, the ratio of C to C remains about the same as the ratio in the atmosphere. When the organism dies, the ratio of C within its carcass begins to gradually decrease. That is the half-life of C The animation provides an example of how this logarithmic decay occurs.

Click on the "Show Movie" button below to view this animation. How is a C Sample Processed? Dates may be expressed as either uncalibrated or calibrated years.

Carbon-14 dating

A raw date cannot be used directly as a calendar date, because the level of atmospheric carbon 14 has not been constant during the span of time that can be radiocarbon dated. In addition, there are substantial reservoirs of carbon in organic matter, the ocean, ocean sediments, and sedimentary rock. Finally, although radiocarbon dating is the most common and widely used chronometric technique in archaeology today, it is not unfailing. In general, single dates should not be trusted.

ANP264 | Spring 2013

Whenever possible multiple samples should be collected and dated from associated sections. The trend of the samples will provide a ball park estimate of the actual date of deposition.


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  4. The trade-off between radiocarbon dating and other techniques is that we exchange precision for a wider geographical and temporal range.