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For radiocarbon dating to be possible, the material must once have been part of a living organism.

This means that things like stone, metal and pottery cannot usually be directly dated by this means unless there is some organic material embedded or left as a residue.

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

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).

Once an organism dies the carbon is no longer replaced.

These isotopes are present in the following amounts C12 - 98.89%, C13 - 1.11% and C14 - 0.00000000010%.Common materials for radiocarbon dating are: The radiocarbon formed in the upper atmosphere is mostly in the form of carbon dioxide. Because the carbon present in a plant comes from the atmosphere in this way, the radio of radiocarbon to stable carbon in the plant is virtually the same as that in the atmosphere.Plant eating animals (herbivores and omnivores) get their carbon by eating plants.Radiocarbon dating has been one of the most significant discoveries in 20th century science.Renfrew (1973) called it 'the radiocarbon revolution' in describing its impact upon the human sciences.

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