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From then on, the ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon will decrease, because the unstable radiocarbon atoms will slowly decay. From this measurement the age in radiocarbon years is calculated. Modern radiocarbon dates are calibrated using long tree-ring chronologies.After about 50,000 years, the radiocarbon concentration remaining is too small to be measured for the purpose of radiocarbon dating. This is necessary to remove errors in raw radiocarbon dates caused by fluctuations in the amount of radiocarbon in the atmosphere in the past.So by measuring carbon 14 levels in an organism that died long ago, researchers can figure out when it died.The procedure of radiocarbon dating can be used for remains that are up to 50,000 years old.This tendency to decay, called radioactivity, is what gives radiocarbon the name radiocarbon.The atmosphere contains many stable carbon atoms and relatively few radiocarbon atoms.When an organism dies (whether plant or animal) its intake of carbon atoms ceases.The starting ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon is locked in at that point. The purpose in each of these methods is to determine the ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon in the sample.

The carbon 14 present in an organism at the time of its death decays at a steady rate, and so the age of the remains can be calculated from the amount of carbon 14 that is left. The cells of all living things contain carbon atoms that they take in from their environment.

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Radiocarbon dating works by precisely measuring the ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon in a sample. The tree-ring chronologies have been constructed by counting the annual rings in living trees and matching patterns in these rings to older wood and dead trees.

By cross-matching tree-ring sequences in individual specimens a long, continuous tree-ring chronology is constructed with very little dating uncertainty. for more information on tree-ring chronologies.) By measuring radiocarbon concentrations in these tree-rings of known age a calibration table is constructed giving the true date of a sample versus its raw radiocarbon date.

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