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Experts can compare the ratio of carbon 12 to carbon 14 in dead material to the ratio when the organism was alive to estimate the date of its death.
Radiocarbon dating can be used on samples of bone, cloth, wood and plant fibers.
Until the 18th century, this question was principally in the hands of theologians, who based their calculations on biblical chronology.
Bishop James Ussher, a 17th-century Irish cleric, for example, calculated that creation occurred in 4004 B. There were many other such estimates, but they invariably resulted in an Earth only a few thousand years old.
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Stratigraphy is the science of understanding the strata, or layers, that form the sedimentary record.
Strata are differentiated from each other by their different colors or compositions and are exposed in cliffs, quarries, and river banks.
Interest in Egyptian chronology is widespread in both popular and scholarly circles.At any particular time all living organisms have approximately the same ratio of carbon 12 to carbon 14 in their tissues.When an organism dies it ceases to replenish carbon in its tissues and the decay of carbon 14 to nitrogen 14 changes the ratio of carbon 12 to carbon 14.By the late 18th century, some naturalists had begun to look closely at the ancient rocks of the Earth.They observed that every rock formation, no matter how ancient, appeared to be formed from still older rocks.