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NOSAMS featured in a Nova Interactive


Radiocarbon Dating

Archeologists use a number of methods to date the objects they find. Inscriptions etched in stone, pottery markings, and historical documents can all offer clues to an artifact’s age. But what happens when there’s no written information available and the design of an object can’t peg it to a particular time? If the artifact is organic—like wood or bone—researchers can turn to a method called radiocarbon dating. It’s a process that dates an object by analyzing the different forms of carbon it contains. In this interactive, learn how radiocarbon dating works, what it takes to determine a date in the lab, and why it’s challenging to pinpoint a date precisely.—David Levin

Launch interactive