Carbon 14 dating maximum age
This turns out not to be exactly true, and so there is an inherent error between a raw "radiocarbon date" and the true calendar date.
To correct for this, scientists have compared radiocarbon dates from objects who's age is known by other means, such as artifacts from Egyptian tombs, and growth rings from ancient trees.
Desmond Clark (1979) wrote that were it not for radiocarbon dating, "we would still be foundering in a sea of imprecisions sometime bred of inspired guesswork but more often of imaginative speculation" (Clark, 1979:7).
Writing of the European Upper Palaeolithic, Movius (1960) concluded that "time alone is the lens that can throw it into focus".
Their commercial rate (in 2008) is 5.00 per sample, which somewhat limits its accessibility to chronically under-funded archeological research projects.
The theory behind radiocarbon dating is as follows: Why doesn't the carbon-14 in the air decay along with terrestrial carbon? The trick is that radioactive carbon-14 is continually replenished in a complex reaction that involves high-energy cosmic rays striking the upper atmosphere.
In this process, nitrogen-14 (7 protons and 7 neutrons) gains a neutron and loses a proton, producing carbon-14 (6 protons and 8 neutrons).
It cannot be applied to inorganic material such as stone tools or ceramic pottery.
The technique is based on measuring the ratio of two isotopes of carbon.