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  • 17 October, 2022

  • 5 Min Read

Carbon Dating

Carbon Dating

A Varanasi district court recently denied a request to carbon date a disputed structure that was allegedly discovered on the grounds of the Gyanvapi Mosque.

How does carbon dating work?

  • Carbon dating is a popular technique for figuring out how old organic materials—i.e., things that were once alive—are.

  • Carbon exists in a variety of forms in all living things.
  • The carbon-14 (C-14) dating method is based on the fact that C-14 is radioactive and decays at a predictable rate.
  • The carbon isotope C-14 has an atomic mass of 14.
  • C-12 is the most prevalent form of carbon in the atmosphere.
  • There is also a tiny amount of C-14.
  • In the atmosphere, the ratio of C-12 to C-14 is almost constant and well-known.
  • The age of non-living objects, like rocks, cannot be ascertained using the carbon dating method.
  • Additionally, carbon dating cannot determine the age of objects older than 40,000–50,000 years.
  • This is due to the fact that the amount of C-14 becomes incredibly small and nearly undetectable after 8–10 cycles of half-lives.


  • It has been shown to be an effective method for dating fossils and archaeological artifacts that range in age from 500 to 50,000 years.

  • Geologists, anthropologists, archaeologists, and researchers in related fields frequently employ this technique.

How Carbon Dating Works:

  • Due to the fact that plants and animals obtain their carbon from the atmosphere, they also acquire C-12 and C-14 in a roughly equivalent ratio to what is present in the atmosphere.

  • Animals primarily obtain carbon through food, whereas plants do so through photosynthesis.
  • Their interactions with the atmosphere cease when they pass away.
  • The radioactive element C-14 has a half-life of approximately 5,730 years, whereas C-12 is stable.
  • After an animal or plant dies, the ratio of C-12 to C-14 in its remains changes, and this measurement can be used to estimate when the organism died.

What about alternative dating techniques to carbon dating?

Methods for radiometric dating

This technique bases its dating on the decay of any additional radioactive elements that may be present in the sample. Some varieties of this approach:

  • Potassium-Argon Dating: As potassium's radioactive isotope decays into argon, its ratios can be used to determine a rock's age.
  • Uranium-Thorium-Lead Dating: The radioactive isotopes of uranium and thorium all decay into the stable lead atom. You can measure the ratios of these components in the material and use that information to infer its age.

Read Also: India’s First Aluminum Freight Rake

Source: The Indian Express

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