Dating with radioactivity
This is calculated through careful measurement of the residual activity (per gram C) remaining in a sample whose age is Unknown, compared with the activity present in Modern and Background samples. Thus 1950, is year 0 BP by convention in radiocarbon dating and is deemed to be the 'present'.You can get an idea of the relationship between C14 and age at the Carbon Dating calculator page. 1950 was chosen for no particular reason other than to honour the publication of the first radiocarbon dates calculated in December 1949 (Taylor, 19).It is vital for a radiocarbon laboratory to know the contribution to routine sample activity of non-sample radioactivity.Obviously, this activity is additional and must be removed from calculations.
Background samples usually consist of geological samples of infinite age such as coal, lignite, limestone, ancient carbonate, athracite, marble or swamp wood.Another standard, Oxalic Acid II was prepared when stocks of HOx 1 began to dwindle. The ratio of the activity of Oxalic acid II to 1 is 1.29330.001 (the weighted mean) (Mann, 1983). There are other secondary radiocarbon standards, the most common is ANU (Australian National University) sucrose.The ratio of the activity of sucrose with 0.95 Ox was first measured by Polach at 1.50070.0052 (Polach, 1976b:122).Later inter-laboratory measurements put the ratio at 1.5081 (Currie and Polach, 1980).According to Stuiver and Polach (1977), all laboratories should report their results either directly related to NBS Oxalic acid or indirectly using a sub-standard which is related to it.