Each radiocarbon date has a statistical probability shown by the ± number.
This number is called a standard deviation and is a measure of the spread of measurements around the mean (average).
It subsequently evolved into the most powerful method of dating late Pleistocene and Holocene artifacts and geologic events up to about 50,000 years in age.
The radiocarbon method is applied in many different scientific fields, including archeology, geology, oceanography, hydrology, atmospheric science, and paleoclimatology.
Where independent age control is available, radiocarbon studies prove to be a unique and powerful chemical tracer of carbon cycle dynamics.
Since carbon is fundamental to life, occurring along with hydrogen in all organic compounds, the detection of such an isotope might form the basis for a method to establish the age of ancient materials.
The C-14 method cannot be used on material more than about 50,000 years old because of this short half-life.
Other isotopes are used by geologists to date older material.
C, yet it is now known that relatively large and frequent fluctuations of atmospheric radiocarbon have existed in the past.
Rasmus Nyerup's quote reminds us of the tremendous scientific advances which have taken place in the 20th century.
In Nyerup's time, archaeologists could date the past only by using recorded histories, which in Europe were based mainly on the Egyptian calendar.
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.