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Carbon dating the shroud

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.

After the war he became very interested in peaceful applications of atomic science.

He and two students first measured the "half-life" of radiocarbon.

We know that it is older than Christendom, but whether by a couple of years or a couple of centuries, or even by more than a millenium, we can do no more than guess." [Rasmus Nyerup, (Danish antiquarian), 1802 (in Trigger, 19)].

The person who wrote these words lived in the 1800s, many years before archaeologists could accurately date materials from archaeological sites using scientific methods.

It is called 'radio'-carbon, because it is 'radioactive'.

This means that its atomic structure is not stable and there is an uneasy relationship between the particles in the nucleus of the atom itself.Carbon follows this pathway through the food chain on Earth so that all living things are using carbon, building their bodies until they die.A tiny part of the carbon on the Earth is called Carbon-14 (C14), or radiocarbon.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.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.Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. 1979, 1986 © Harper Collins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012 Cite This Source "to cut" (see shred (n.)).Specific meaning "winding-sheet, cloth or sheet for burial," to which the word now is restricted, first attested 1560s.The half-life refers to the amount of time it takes for half the radiocarbon in a sample of bone or shell or any carbon sample to disappear.Libby found that it took 5568 years for half the radiocarbon to decay.

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