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The relatively short-lived C taken into organic matter is also slightly variable. However, under about 20,000 years the results can be compared with dendrochronology, based on tree rings.For the most accurate work, variations are compensated by means of calibration curves.
One key to understanding how and why something happened is to pinpoint when it happened.
While on a hike, a couple from Germany found what is now referred to as the Iceman.
You might be wondering how we know that the Iceman is more than 5,000 years old. Carbon dating is a way of telling the age of a once living thing by measuring the amount of carbon inside of it.
So something that lived (and died) when the proportion of C was less than normal would appear to have died more years ago than it actually did (for example, it might give an age of 3,000 years before the present, rather than its true age of 2,000 years).
Did you ever wonder how scientists know a fossil is 10,000 years old or a piece of paper is 2,000 years old? In this lesson you'll learn about carbon dating and how it works.
When scientists chipped the Iceman out of the block of ice he was found in, they tested his body to see how many carbon-14 atoms were remaining, which told them his age.