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There are two basic approaches: relative age dating, and absolute age dating.

Here is an easy-to understand analogy for your students: relative age dating is like saying that your grandfather is older than you.

This method can give archaeologists an indication of the age of the artifacts in all Absolute dating methods can give an estimate of the real calendar age of an artifact or site.

There are several absolute dating methods that archaeologists can use, including radiocarbon dating and potassium argon dating.potassium) decays into argon over time, so the age of certain rocks or minerals can be discovered by measuring the amount of argon they contain.

Meet paleoclimatologist Scott Stine, who uses radiocarbon dating to study changes in climate. What we think of as normal carbon is called carbon-12: six protons plus six neutrons. Several times a year, scientist Scott Stine travels to the shores of Mono Lake, near Yosemite National Park. He's studying the long history of droughts in California, trying to determine how frequently they occur and how long they last.

Since then, the remains of those trees have been well preserved by the arid climate. To determine how long ago these droughts occurred, Scott is using carbon-14 to date the trees.

Unlike the other natural isotopes of carbon, carbon-14 is unstable. One of its neutrons turns into a proton and spits out an electron.

Because carbon-14 decays at this constant rate, an estimate of the date at which an organism died can be made by measuring the amount of its residual radiocarbon.

technology columnist David Pogue explores how isotopes of carbon can be used to determine the age of once-living matter. The difference between them is the number of neutrons in the nucleus.

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Relative dating methods do not tell archaeologists exactly how old things are, but only how old things are relative to each other.

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