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    Carbon 14 dating

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    A bone is given several Carbon 14 dates. What do they mean and how would I interpret the dates?

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    Carbon is an element, and like all elements consists of atoms made of protons, neutrons and electrons.

    Carbon has a normal neutron complement of 12. When that number is different, it is an isotope. There are three natural forms of carbon in our atmosphere: 12C (98.89%), 13C (1.11%) and 14C (<10 to the minus tenth%). The number before the C (carbon) is the number of neutrons.

    14C is made when it is bombarded by 14N (nitrogen) neutrons in the atmosphere, and with the help of our magnetic field becomes 14CO (carbon monoxide) within hours. It becomes 14CO2 (carbon dioxide) within months and lasts about 100 years in the atmosphere in this form. 14C can then be taken up into plants through photosynthesis and subsequently animal tissue when the plant is eaten. This is a pretty regular process so as ...

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