Nyerup's words illustrate poignantly the critical power and importance of dating; to order time.Radiocarbon dating has been one of the most significant discoveries in 20th century science.Each radiocarbon date has a statistical probability shown by the ± number.This number is called a standard deviation and is a measure of the spread of measurements around the mean (average).To understand this, you must first understand radioactivity and decay.When an element undergoes radioactive decay, it creates radiation and turns into some other element.
Writing of the European Upper Palaeolithic, Movius (1960) concluded that "time alone is the lens that can throw it into focus".
Libby later received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1960: (From Taylor, 1987).
Today, there are over 130 radiocarbon dating laboratories around the world producing radiocarbon assays for the scientific community.
Another problem derives from the “reservoir effect” in which old material, limestone or graphite, has contaminated the samples.
This is particularly true of marine samples and contemporary shells may seem to be hundreds of years old.