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Carbon-14 has a half-life of 5,730 ± 40 years, meaning that every 5,700 years or so the object loses half its carbon-14.
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The contrast might also be drawn between two 'dimensions', the historical, and the archaeological, corresponding roughly to the short-term and long-term history envisaged by Fernand Braudel.
On the one level, events and individuals are placed in an absolute chronology: the exact years and sometimes even months and days of the events and biographies are known.
For example, it makes it possible to compare the ages of objects on a worldwide scale, allowing for indispensible comparisons across the globe.
Before this, it was anyone's guess how different digs' timelines compared to one another over great distances.
In archaeology, dating techniques fall into two broad categories: chronometric (sometimes called “absolute”) and relative.
Chronometric dating techniques produce a specific chronological date or date range for some event in the past. Relative dating techniques, on the other hand, provide only the relative order in which events took place.
Until this century, relative dating was the only technique for identifying the age of a truly ancient object.
By examining the object's relation to layers of deposits in the area, and by comparing the object to others found at the site, archaeologists can estimate when the object arrived at the site.
For example, the results of dendrochronology (tree-ring) analysis may tell us that a particular roof beam was from a tree chopped down in A. For example, the stratum, or layer, in which an artifact is found in an ancient structure may make it clear that the artifact was deposited sometime after people stopped living in the structure but before the roof collapsed.