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They exist in equilibrium with the C14 concentration of the atmosphere, that is, the numbers of C14 atoms and non-radioactive carbon atoms stays approximately the same over time.

Libby invented carbon dating for which he received the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1960.

Renfrew (1973) called it 'the radiocarbon revolution' in describing its impact upon the human sciences.

Oakley (1979) suggested its development meant an almost complete re-writing of the evolution and cultural emergence of the human species.

By measuring the C14 concentration or residual radioactivity of a sample whose age is not known, it is possible to obtain the countrate or number of decay events per gram of Carbon.

By comparing this with modern levels of activity (1890 wood corrected for decay to 1950 AD) and using the measured half-life it becomes possible to calculate a date for the death of the sample.

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