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The extra neutrons in Carbon-14’s case make it radioactive (thus the term, radiocarbon).Radiocarbon is produced in the upper atmosphere after Nitrogen-14 isotopes have been impacted by cosmic radiation.In fact, levels of Carbon-14 have varied in the atmosphere through time.One good example would be the elevated levels of Carbon-14 in our atmosphere since WWII as a result of atomic bombs testing.Shellfish remains are common in coastal and estuarine archaeological sites, but dating these samples require a correction for the “reservoir effect” a process whereby "old carbon" is recycled and incorporated into marine life especially shellfish inflating their actual age in some cases several centuries.

More recently is the radiocarbon date of 1950 AD or before present, BP.

Limitations and calibration: When Libby was first determining radiocarbon dates, he found that before 1000 BC his dates were earlier than calendar dates.

He had assumed that amounts of Carbon-14 in the atmosphere had remained constant through time.

How It Works: Carbon has 3 isotopic forms: Carbon-12, Carbon-13, and Carbon-14.

The numbers refer to the atomic weight, so Carbon-12 has 6 protons and 6 neutrons, Carbon-13 has 6 protons and 7 neutrons, and Carbon-14 has 6 protons and 8 neutrons.