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The method does not count beta particles but the number of carbon atoms present in the sample and the proportion of the isotopes. Samples that have been radiocarbon dated since the inception of the method include charcoal, wood, twigs, seeds, bones, shells, leather, peat, lake mud, soil, hair, pottery, pollen, wall paintings, corals, blood residues, fabrics, paper or parchment, resins, and water, among others.Physical and chemical pretreatments are done on these materials to remove possible contaminants before they are analyzed for their radiocarbon content.Accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) is a modern radiocarbon dating method that is considered to be the more efficient way to measure radiocarbon content of a sample.In this method, the carbon 14 content is directly measured relative to the carbon 12 and carbon 13 present. Some inorganic matter, like a shell’s aragonite component, can also be dated as long as the mineral’s formation involved assimilation of carbon 14 in equilibrium with the atmosphere.

It must be noted though that radiocarbon dating results indicate when the organism was alive but not when a material from that organism was used.

It is rapidly oxidized in air to form carbon dioxide and enters the global carbon cycle.

Plants and animals assimilate carbon 14 from carbon dioxide throughout their lifetimes.

Over the years, other secondary radiocarbon standards have been made.

Radiocarbon activity of materials in the background is also determined to remove its contribution from results obtained during a sample analysis.

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