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When carbon-14 falls to Earth, it is absorbed by plants.These plants are eaten by animals who, in turn, are eaten by even larger animals.Before the advent of absolute dating methods in the twentieth century, nearly all dating was relative.The main relative dating method is stratigraphy (pronounced stra-TI-gra-fee), which is the study of layers of rocks or the objects embedded within those layers.Dating techniques are procedures used by scientists to determine the age of an object or a series of events.The two main types of dating methods are relative and absolute.
In the process of disintegration, the atom gives off radiation (energy emitted in the form of waves). Each element decays at its own rate, unaffected by external physical conditions.Relative dating methods are used to determine only if one sample is older or younger than another.Absolute dating methods are used to determine an actual date in years for the age of an object.By measuring the amount of carbon-14 remaining, scientists can pinpoint the exact date of the organism's death.The range of conventional radiocarbon dating is 30,000 to 40,000 years.These include the uranium-thorium method, the potassium-argon method, and the rubidium-strontium method. Thermoluminescence (pronounced ther-moeloo-mi-NES-ence) dating is very useful for determining the age of pottery.When a piece of pottery is heated in a laboratory at temperatures more than 930°F (500°C), electrons from quartz and other minerals in the pottery clay emit light.Absolute dates must agree with dates from other relative methods in order to be valid.The most widely used and accepted form of absolute dating is radioactive decay dating. Radioactive decay refers to the process in which a radioactive form of an element is converted into a nonradioactive product at a regular rate.Narrow rings grow in cold or dry years, and wide rings grow in warm or wet years.The rings form a distinctive pattern, which is the same for all members in a given species and geographical area.