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The radiocarbon method was developed by a team of scientists led by the late Professor Willard F.Libby of the University of Chicago in immediate post-WW2 years.Carbon-14 has a half-life of 5,730 ± 40 years—, half the amount of the radioisotope present at any given time will undergo spontaneous disintegration during the succeeding 5,730 years.Because carbon-14 decays at this constant rate, an estimate of the date at which an organism died can be made by measuring the amount of its residual radiocarbon.Renfrew (1973) called it 'the radiocarbon revolution' in describing its impact upon the human sciences.Oakley (1979) suggested its development meant an almost complete re-writing of the evolution and cultural emergence of the human species.The carbon-14 method was developed by the American physicist Willard F. It has proved to be a versatile technique of dating fossils and archaeological specimens from 500 to 50,000 years old.The method is widely used by Pleistocene geologists, anthropologists, archaeologists, and investigators in related fields.
As soon as a plant or animal dies, they cease the metabolic function of carbon uptake; there is no replenishment of radioactive carbon, only decay."Everything which has come down to us from heathendom is wrapped in a thick fog; it belongs to a space of time we cannot measure.We know that it is older than Christendom, but whether by a couple of years or a couple of centuries, or even by more than a millenium, we can do no more than guess." [Rasmus Nyerup, (Danish antiquarian), 1802 (in Trigger, 19)].There is a useful diagrammatic representation of this process given here Libby, Anderson and Arnold (1949) were the first to measure the rate of this decay.They found that after 5568 years, half the C14 in the original sample will have decayed and after another 5568 years, half of that remaining material will have decayed, and so on (see figure 1 below).
The radiocarbon method is based on the rate of decay of the radioactive or unstable carbon isotope 14 (14C), which is formed in the upper atmosphere through the effect of cosmic ray neutrons upon nitrogen 14.