His radiocarbon dating technique is the most important development in absolute dating in archaeology and remains the main tool for dating the past 50,000 years.
For example, it makes it possible to compare the ages of objects on a worldwide scale, allowing for indispensible comparisons across the globe.
Before this, it was anyone's guess how different digs' timelines compared to one another over great distances.
Fortunately, Willard Libby, a scientist who would later win the 1960 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, developed the process known as radiocarbon dating in the late 1940s. In a nutshell, it works like this: After an organism dies, it stops absorbing carbon-14, so the radioactive isotope starts to decay and is not replenished.
Archaeologists can then measure the amount of carbon-14 compared to the stable isotope carbon-12 and determine how old an item is.
The Muslims count the Prophet’s departure from Mecca, or the Hegira, as their beginning at AD 662.
The Mayan calendar used 3114 BC as their reference.
Despite these limitations, radiocarbon dating will often get you a decent ballpark figure.
While other methods of dating objects exist, radiocarbon dating has remained vital for most archaeologists.
Natural disasters like floods can sweep away top layers of sites to other locations.
Absolute dating represents the absolute age of the sample before the present.
More recently is the radiocarbon date of 1950 AD or before present, BP.