Scientific definition of absolute dating

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For example, techniques based on isotopes with half lives in the thousands of years, such as carbon-14, cannot be used to date materials that have ages on the order of billions of years, as the detectable amounts of the radioactive atoms and their decayed daughter isotopes will be too small to measure within the uncertainty of the instruments.

One of the most widely used and well-known absolute dating techniques is carbon-14 (or radiocarbon) dating, which is used to date organic remains.

Techniques include tree rings in timbers, radiocarbon dating of wood or bones, and trapped-charge dating methods such as thermoluminescence dating of glazed ceramics.

Coins found in excavations may have their production date written on them, or there may be written records describing the coin and when it was used, allowing the site to be associated with a particular calendar year.

Argon, a noble gas, is not commonly incorporated into such samples except when produced in situ through radioactive decay.

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Other radiometric dating techniques are available for earlier periods.

Absolute dating is the process of determining an age on a specified chronology in archaeology and geology.

Some scientists prefer the terms chronometric or calendar dating, as use of the word "absolute" implies an unwarranted certainty of accuracy.

Thus dating that particular tree does not necessarily indicate when the fire burned or the structure was built.

For this reason, many archaeologists prefer to use samples from short-lived plants for radiocarbon dating.

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