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In a stratigraphical context objects closer to the surface are more recent in time relative to items deeper in the ground.Although relative dating can work well in certain areas, several problems arise.Rodents, for example, can create havoc in a site by moving items from one context to another.Natural disasters like floods can sweep away top layers of sites to other locations..pass_color_to_child_links a.u-inline.u-margin-left--xs.u-margin-right--sm.u-padding-left--xs.u-padding-right--xs.u-relative.u-absolute.u-absolute--center.u-width--100.u-flex-inline.u-flex-align-self--center.u-flex-justify--between.u-serif-font-main--regular.js-wf-loaded .u-serif-font-main--regular.amp-page .u-serif-font-main--regular.u-border-radius--ellipse.u-hover-bg--black-transparent.web_page .u-hover-bg--black-transparent:hover.

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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.After an organism dies, the radiocarbon decreases through a regular pattern of decay. The time taken for half of the atoms of a radioactive isotope to decay in Carbon-14’s case is about 5730 years.Half-lives vary according to the isotope, for example, Uranium-238 has a half-life of 4500 million years where as Nitrogen-17 has a half-life of 4.173 seconds!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.In recognition of this problem archaeologists have developed regional reservoir correction rates based on ocean bottom topography, water temperature, coastline shape and paired samples of terrestrial and marine objects found together in an archaeological feature such as a hearth.

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