Carbon dating

  • Allahabad HC ordered carbon dating of a structure at Gyanvapi mosque complex in Varanasi.
  • Carbon dating is a widely-used method to establish the age of organic materials, things that were once living.
  • Carbon-14 (C-14), an isotope of carbon, is radioactive, and decays at a well-known rate (Half-life of 5,730 years).
  • Most abundant isotope of carbon in atmosphere is C-12.
  • Ratio of C-12 to C-14 in atmosphere is almost static, and is known.
  • Also, age of things that are more than 40,000-50,000 years cannot be arrived at through carbon dating.
  • This is because after 8-10 cycles of half-lives, the amount of C-14 becomes very small and is almost undetectable.


  • Two commonly employed methods for dating rocks are potassium-argon dating and uranium-thorium-lead dating.
  • The radioactive isotope of potassium decays into argon, and their ratios can give a clue about the age of rocks.
  • Uranium and thorium have several radioactive isotopes, and all of them decay into the stable lead
  • The ratios of these elements present in the material can be measured and used to make estimates about age.
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