Compared to conventional radiocarbon techniques such as Libby's solid carbon counting, the gas counting method popular in the mid-1950s, or liquid scintillation (LS) counting, AMS permitted the dating of much smaller sized samples with even greater precision.Regardless of the particular 14C technique used, the value of this tool for archaeology has clearly been appreciated.Carbon-14 has a half-life of 5,730 ± 40 years— during the succeeding 5,730 years.
Radiocarbon dating has been one of the most significant discoveries in 20th century science.
As a result it is always undergoing natural radioactive decay while the abundances of the other isotopes are unchanged.
Carbon-14 is most abundant in atmospheric carbon dioxide because it is constantly being produced by collisions between nitrogen atoms and cosmic rays at the upper limits of the atmosphere.
"Everything which has come down to us from heathendom is wrapped in a thick fog; it belongs to a space of time we cannot measure.
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)].