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Plants and animals naturally incorporate both the abundant C-12 isotope and the much rarer radiocarbon isotope into their tissues in about the same proportions as the two occur in the atmosphere during their lifetimes.
It takes about 5,730 years for half of a sample of radiocarbon to decay back into nitrogen.
It takes another 5,730 for half of the remainder to decay, and then another 5,730 for half of what's left then to decay and so on.
The period of time that it takes for half of a sample to decay is called a "half-life." Radiocarbon oxidizes (that is, it combines with oxygen) and enters the biosphere through natural processes like breathing and eating.
After about 10 half-lives, the amount of radiocarbon left becomes too miniscule to measure and so this technique isn't useful for dating specimens which died more than 60,000 years ago.
Another limitation is that this technique can only be applied to organic material such as bone, flesh, or wood. Carbon Dating - The Premise Carbon dating is a dating technique predicated upon three things: Carbon Dating - The Controversy Carbon dating is controversial for a couple of reasons.