Modern dating techniques

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The absolute dating method first appeared in 1907 with Lord Rutherford and Professor Boltwood at Yale University, but wasn’t accepted until the 1950s.

The first method was based on radioactive elements whose property of decay occurs at a constant rate, known as the half-life of the isotope.

However, human beings love to see factual precision, and we want to know how old something is.

Please remember that all dating methods, even those termed "absolute," are subject to margins of error. That is a very small amount of possible error range. Modern studies almost always use two or more methods to confirm dating work and to build confidence in the results obtained.

Familiar to us as the black substance in charred wood, as diamonds, and the graphite in “lead” pencils, carbon comes in several forms, or isotopes.

One rare form has atoms that are 14 times as heavy as hydrogen atoms: carbon-14, or C ratio gets smaller.

Relative techniques can determine the sequence of events but not the precise date of an event, making these methods unreliable.Love-hungry teenagers and archaeologists agree: dating is hard.But while the difficulties of single life may be intractable, the challenge of determining the age of prehistoric artifacts and fossils is greatly aided by measuring certain radioactive isotopes.For each dating or chronological method there is a link in the box at right to take you to that section of this page.There, you will find a brief description of the method, plus links to take you to other webpages with more extensive information.

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