Radiometric dating of human fossils

Posted by / 09-Apr-2020 02:45

Radiometric dating of human fossils

It hinges upon the presence of carbon-14, a radioactive isotope of carbon that accumulates in the bodies of animals throughout our lives, and gradually decays after we die.By measuring the amounts left in a specimen, scientists can calculate when its owner died.Carbon combines with other elements in complex ways to form the molecules that make up our bodies.Most carbon on Earth is not radioactive, but a very small percentage is.

After death the amount of carbon-14 in the organic specimen decreases very regularly as the molecules decay.Carbon-14 has a half-life of 5,730 ± 40 years, meaning that every 5,700 years or so the object loses half its carbon-14.Samples from the past 70,000 years made of wood, charcoal, peat, bone, antler or one of many other carbonates may be dated using this technique.The simple answer is: Because dating fossils is really difficult.Scientific papers and news reports about new fossils so regularly come with estimates of age that it’s easy forget how hard-won such data can be.

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