As long as there is organic material present, radiocarbon dating is a universal dating technique that can be applied anywhere in the world.
It is good for dating for the last 50,000 years to about 400 years ago and can create chronologies for areas that previously lacked calendars.
There are two techniques for dating in archaeological sites: relative and absolute dating.
Relative dating stems from the idea that something is younger or older relative to something else.
The extra neutrons in Carbon-14’s case make it radioactive (thus the term, radiocarbon).
Radiocarbon is produced in the upper atmosphere after Nitrogen-14 isotopes have been impacted by cosmic radiation.
Historical documents and calendars can be used to find such absolute dates; however, when working in a site without such documents, it is hard for absolute dates to be determined.Shellfish remains are common in coastal and estuarine archaeological sites, but dating these samples require a correction for the “reservoir effect” a process whereby "old carbon" is recycled and incorporated into marine life especially shellfish inflating their actual age in some cases several centuries.In recognition of this problem archaeologists have developed regional reservoir correction rates based on ocean bottom topography, water temperature, coastline shape and paired samples of terrestrial and marine objects found together in an archaeological feature such as a hearth.Plankton absorbs, Carbon-14 from the ocean much like terrestrial plants absorb Carbon-14 from the air.Since plankton is the foundation of the marine food chain, Carbon-14 is spread throughout aquatic life.In 1949, American chemist Willard Libby, who worked on the development of the atomic bomb, published the first set of radiocarbon dates.His radiocarbon dating technique is the most important development in absolute dating in archaeology and remains the main tool for dating the past 50,000 years.When it comes to dating archaeological samples, several timescale problems arise.For example, Christian time counts the birth of Christ as the beginning, AD 1 (Anno Domini); everything that occurred before Christ is counted backwards from AD as BC (Before Christ).In a stratigraphical context objects closer to the surface are more recent in time relative to items deeper in the ground.Although relative dating can work well in certain areas, several problems arise.