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In the early years of radiocarbon dating a product’s decay was measured, but this required huge samples (e.g. Many labs now use an Accelerator Mass Spectrometer (AMS), a machine that can detect and measure the presence of different isotopes, to count the individual C atoms in a sample.

This method requires less than 1g of bone, but few countries can afford more than one or two AMSs, which cost more than A0,000.

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The second difficulty arises from the extremely low abundance of C, making it incredibly difficult to measure and extremely sensitive to contamination.

Radiocarbon dating has transformed our understanding of the past 50,000 years.

Professor Willard Libby produced the first radiocarbon dates in 1949 and was later awarded the Nobel Prize for his efforts.

Geologists do not use carbon-based radiometric dating to determine the age of rocks.

Carbon dating only works for objects that are younger than about 50,000 years, and most rocks of interest are older than that.

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