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­ ­You probably have seen or read news stories about fascinating ancient artifacts.

At an ar­chaeological dig, a piece of wooden tool is unearthed and the archaeologist finds it to be 5,000 years old.

What methods do they use and how do these methods work?

In this article, we will examine the methods by which scientists use radioactivity to determine the age of objects, most notably carbon-14 dating.

Carbon-14 dating is a way of determining the age of certain archeological artifacts of a biological origin up to about 50,000 years old.

It is used in dating things such as bone, cloth, wood and plant fibers that were created in the relatively recent past by human activities.

Rachel Wood does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

The Conversation UK receives funding from Hefce, Hefcw, SAGE, SFC, RCUK, The Nuffield Foundation, The Ogden Trust, The Royal Society, The Wellcome Trust, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and The Alliance for Useful Evidence, as well as sixty five university members.View the full list Radiocarbon dating has transformed our understanding of the past 50,000 years.Professor Willard Libby produced the first radiocarbon dates in 1949 and was later awarded the Nobel Prize for his efforts.Radiocarbon dating works by comparing the three different isotopes of carbon.Isotopes of a particular element have the same number of protons in their nucleus, but different numbers of neutrons.This means that although they are very similar chemically, they have different masses.