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For example, it was once standard practice to simply burn whole bones, but the results were eventually seen to be unreliable.

Chemical methods for separating the organic (collagen) from the inorganic (apatite) components of bone created the opportunity to date both components and compare the results.

Since carbon is fundamental to life, occurring along with hydrogen in all organic compounds, the detection of such an isotope might form the basis for a method to establish the age of ancient materials.

Libby, a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Chicago, predicted that a radioactive isotope of carbon, known as carbon-14, would be found to occur in nature.

This is the clock that permits levels of c14 in organic archaeological, geological, and paleontological samples to be converted into an estimate of time.

However, to avoid confusion all radiocarbon laboratories continue to use the half-life calculated by Libby, sometimes rounding it to 5570 years.Many laboratories now use liquid scintillation counters with the samples being converted to benzene.All of these counter types measure the C-14 content by monitering the rate of decay per unit time.Most samples require chemical pre-treatment to ensure their purity or to recover particular components of the material.The objective of pre-treatment is to ensure that the carbon being analyzed is native to the sample submitted for dating.

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