The 14C formed is rapidly oxidised to 14CO2 and enters the earth's plant and animal lifeways through photosynthesis and the food chain.The rapidity of the dispersal of C14 into the atmosphere has been demonstrated by measurements of radioactive carbon produced from thermonuclear bomb testing.Renfrew (1973) called it 'the radiocarbon revolution' in describing its impact upon the human sciences.
Writing of the European Upper Palaeolithic, Movius (1960) concluded that "time alone is the lens that can throw it into focus".Libby and his team intially tested the radiocarbon method on samples from prehistoric Egypt.They chose samples whose age could be independently determined.There is a quantitative relationship between the decay of 14C and the production of a beta particle. That is, the probability of decay for an atom of 14C in a discrete sample is constant, thereby requiring the application of statistical methods for the analysis of counting data.
It follows from this that any material which is composed of carbon may be dated.
The radiocarbon method was developed by a team of scientists led by the late Professor Willard F.