This method of absolute dating is based on the measurement of the radioactive decay of the C-14 atom.All living beings, both plants and animals, have a mixture of radioactive C-14 and nonradioactive C-12 atoms in their organic material. The remaining C-14 atoms decay at a constant rate, allowing this process to be used reliably as an indicator of age.This dating method is used to date obsidian, a kind of volcanic glass.

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Accurate dating is important for putting events and objects in sequence.

How Carbon-14 Dating Works Examine the methods by which scientists use radioactivity to determine the age of objects, most notably carbon-14 dating.

Ancient sites in England, Malta, and elsewhere turned out to be older than once thought.

With this new information, scientists were able to paint a more accurate picture of European prehistory. An absolute dating method tells the excavator the specific date of the material being studied (plus or minus a margin of error).

Imagine an archaeologist needs to assign a date to a bone recovered during an excavation.

Turning to carbon-14 dating, the archaeologist might discover that the bone dates from 3,500 years ago. It involves putting things into a sequence based on their relative ages.

Adding the margin of error for carbon-14 (in this case, +/- 150 years), the archaeologist can give a reliable date range for the bone: 1655-1405 B. A bone found deep in the ground will generally be older than one found close to the surface, for example.

Two bones found in the same archaeological deposit are likely to be the same age.

This sort of information helps archaeologists to put objects into an age sequence.