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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.

It is in knowing what made past cultures cease to exist that could provide the key in making sure that history does not repeat itself.

Over the years, archaeology has uncovered information about past cultures that would have been left unknown had it not been with the help of such technologies as radiocarbon dating, dendrochronology, archaeomagnetic dating, fluoride dating, luminescence dating, and obsidian hydration analysis, among others.

And you can look at their tree rings, and I think most of us are familiar with this idea that every year that a tree grows, it forms another layer of bark.

And so you can look back to that layer of bark just for the half life of carbon-14, and then figure out how much carbon-14 was there in the atmosphere at that period in time. Those are those speleothems that are kind of coming out of the bottom of the cave, or stalactites.

This means that although they are very similar chemically, they have different masses.

The Conversation UK receives funding from Hefce, Hefcw, SAGE, SFC, RCUK, The Nuffield Foundation, The Ogden Trust, The Royal Society, The Wellcome Trust, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and The Alliance for Useful Evidence, as well as sixty five university members.

View the full list Radiocarbon dating has transformed our understanding of the past 50,000 years.

The older an organism's remains are, the less beta radiation it emits because its C-14 is steadily dwindling at a predictable rate.

So, if we measure the rate of beta decay in an organic sample, we can calculate how old the sample is. Question: Kieth and Anderson radiocarbon-dated the shell of a living freshwater mussel and obtained an age of over two thousand years.

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