A child mummy is found high in the Andes and the archaeologist says the child lived more than 2,000 years ago.How do scientists know how old an object or human remains are?History, anthropology, and archaeology are three distinct but closely related bodies of knowledge that tell man of his present by virtue of his past.Historians can tell what cultures thrived in different regions and when they disintegrated.
There is a greater part of man’s unwritten past that archaeology has managed to unravel.
An archaeologist’s staple is radiocarbon dating: judging the age of an organic sample from its carbon-14 – also known as radiocarbon – content.
Around 99% of carbon on earth is carbon-12 – atoms with six protons and six neutrons in its nucleus.
Scratching around in a cave in the middle of nowhere, you find a bone.
How do you find out if it’s the remains of an ancient animal that stomped the land tens of thousands of years ago or a discarded scrap from a cooking fire only a few hundred years back?
Then, only exceptionally well-preserved, pristine samples can provide reliable dates.