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But when Fagg subjected plant matter found embedded in the terracotta to the then-new technique of radiocarbon dating, the dates ranged from 440 B. He found 13 such furnaces, and terracotta figurines were in such close associationinside the furnaces and around themthat he postulated the terracottas were objects of worship to aid blacksmithing and smelting.
Carbon dating of charcoal inside the furnaces revealed dates as far back as 280 B.
The radiocarbon dating method is based on the fact that radiocarbon is constantly being created in the atmosphere by the interaction of cosmic rays with atmospheric nitrogen.
The resulting radiocarbon combines with atmospheric oxygen to form radioactive carbon dioxide, which is incorporated into plants by photosynthesis; animals then acquire in a sample from a dead plant or animal such as a piece of wood or a fragment of bone provides information that can be used to calculate when the animal or plant died.
The older a sample is, the less (the period of time after which half of a given sample will have decayed) is about 5,730 years, the oldest dates that can be reliably measured by this process date to around 50,000 years ago, although special preparation methods occasionally permit accurate analysis of older samples.
The idea behind radiocarbon dating is straightforward, but years of work were required to develop the technique to the point where accurate dates could be obtained.
For each dating or chronological method there is a link in the box at right to take you to that section of this page.
Please remember that all dating methods, even those termed "absolute," are subject to margins of error. That is a very small amount of possible error range. Modern studies almost always use two or more methods to confirm dating work and to build confidence in the results obtained.
Stratigraphy is the result of what geologists and archaeologists refer to as the “process of stratification”, or the process by which layers of soil and debris are laid down on top of one another over time.
The easiest way to think about stratigraphy is as if you were making lasagna: first you put down the first layer of pasta, then cheese on top of that, then sauce, then another piece of pasta, and so on.
Other corrections must be made to account for the proportion of throughout the biosphere (reservoir effects).
Additional complications come from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil, and from the above-ground nuclear tests done in the 1950s and 1960s.