Radioactive dating of organic materials
All ordinary matter is made up of combinations of chemical elements, each with its own atomic number, indicating the number of protons in the atomic nucleus.
Elements exist in different isotopes, with each isotope of an element differing in the number of neutrons in the nucleus.
Advantages include the ability to date an object without destroying it, having many different techniques to choose from, and the ability to procure a relatively accurate age of objects that are hundreds of thousands, millions, or even billions of years old.
This works because elements have a life cycle known as a “half-life.” A half-life refers to the amount of time it takes for an isotope to lose half of its atoms as a result of decaying.
When an isotope decays, it often becomes a different kind of element altogether.
Contamination from outside, or the loss of isotopes at any time from the rock's original formation, would change the result.
It is therefore essential to have as much information as possible about the material being dated and to check for possible signs of alteration.