The relative dating method worked very well, but only in sites which were had a connection to the relative scale. When radiocarbon dating was developed, it revolutionised archaeology, because it enabled them to more confidently date the past, and to build a more accurate picture of the human past.
The archaeologist Colin Renfrew (1973) called it the development of this dating method 'the radiocarbon revolution' in describing its great impact upon the human sciences.
I have tried here to answer some of the frequently asked questions that I receive from students via email, as well as providing some basic information about scientific dating methods.
"Everything which has come down to us from heathendom is wrapped in a thick fog; it belongs to a space of time we cannot measure.
All plants and animals on Earth are made principally of carbon.
You can work out that after about 50 000 years of time, all the radiocarbon will have gone.
Therefore, radiocarbon dating is not able to date anything older than 60 or 70 000 years old.
Eventually, a particle is emitted from the carbon 14 atom, and carbon 14 disappears.
Most of the carbon on Earth exists in a slightly different atomic form, although it is chemically speaking, identical to all carbon.