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The amount of carbon 14 remaining in the material to date is compared to a reference standard (ratio 14C/total carbon, 12C and 13C) to calculate the time elapsed since its occurrence.

A sample requires 10 to 20 grams of matter and usually consists of charred organic material, mainly charcoal, but bones (zooarchaeology) and shells can also be dated using this technique.

Archaeologists have access to various techniques for dating archaeological sites or the objects found on those sites.There are two main categories of dating methods in archaeology: indirect or relative dating and absolute dating.Relative dating includes methods that rely on the analysis of comparative data or the context (eg, geological, regional, cultural) in which the object one wishes to date is found.However, this method is sometimes limited because the reoccupation of an area may require excavation to establish the foundation of a building, for instance, that goes through older layers.In this case, even if the foundation of the building is found in the same stratigraphic level as the previous occupation, the two events are not contemporary.

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