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The idea behind radiocarbon dating is straightforward, but years of work were required to develop the technique to the point where accurate dates could be obtained.
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Research has been ongoing since the 1960s to determine what the proportion of in the atmosphere has been over the past fifty thousand years.
The resulting data, in the form of a calibration curve, is now used to convert a given measurement of radiocarbon in a sample into an estimate of the sample's calendar age.
The radiocarbon dating method is based on the fact that radiocarbon is constantly being created in the atmosphere by the interaction of cosmic rays with atmospheric nitrogen.