Radioactive isotopes archaeological dating

Generally, however, they are useful either because we can detect their radioactivity or we can use the energy they release.

Radioactive isotopes are effective tracers because their radioactivity is easy to detect.

A tiny amount of carbon-14 is produced naturally in the upper reaches of the atmosphere, and living things incorporate some of it into their tissues, building up to a constant, although very low, level.A is a substance that can be used to follow the pathway of that substance through some structure.For instance, leaks in underground water pipes can be discovered by running some tritium-containing water through the pipes and then using a Geiger counter to locate any radioactive tritium subsequently present in the ground around the pipes.Once a living thing dies, however, it no longer acquires carbon-14, and as time passes, the carbon-14 that was in the tissues decays.If a once-living artifact is discovered and analyzed many years after its death, with the remaining carbon-14 compared to the known constant level, an approximate age of the artifact can be determined.

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This method of dating can be used with success to determine not only the ages of animal remains but also those of wood, paper, cloth and other organic material.

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