The science that studies human cultures is called anthropology.
Chronometric dating techniques are based on
During the latter half of this century anthropological surveys in East Africa have made significant contributions to understanding how the human species has evolved.
In the past two decades, particularly, discoveries of our fossil ancestors have been made in unprecedented numbers and diversity.
Desmond Clark (1979:7) observed that without radiocarbon dating "we would still be foundering in a sea of imprecisions sometime bred of inspired guesswork but more often of imaginative speculation." And as Colin Renfrew (1973) aptly noted over 30 years ago, the "Radiocarbon Revolution" transformed how archaeologists could interpret the past and track cultural changes through a period in human history where we see among other things the massive migration of peoples settling virtually every major region of the world, the transition from hunting and gathering to more intensive forms of food production, and the rise of city-states.
However, as with any dating technique there are limits to the kinds of things that can be satisfactorily dated, levels of precision and accuracy, age range constraints, and different levels of susceptibility to contamination.
The Radiocarbon Revolution Since its development by Willard Libby in the 1940s, radiocarbon (14C) dating has become one of the most essential tools in archaeology.
Radiocarbon dating was the first chronometric technique widely available to archaeologists and was especially useful because it allowed researchers to directly date the panoply of organic remains often found in archaeological sites including artifacts made from bone, shell, wood, and other carbon based materials.This is because I am reviewing the volume, in the main, for scholars in the humanities disciplines rather than for scientists; therefore I shall attempt to interest and inform both audiences.Archaeology is, indeed, one of the humanities (so-defined by the United States Congress in 1965), but it is also one that has borrowed paradigms, methods, and analytical techniques, and adopted analogies and inferences from many of the natural, physical, and social sciences, and the humanities.Compared to conventional radiocarbon techniques such as Libby's solid carbon counting, the gas counting method popular in the mid-1950s, or liquid scintillation (LS) counting, AMS permitted the dating of much smaller sized samples with even greater precision.Regardless of the particular 14C technique used, the value of this tool for archaeology has clearly been appreciated.The word anthropology is derived from two Greek words: anthropos meaning "man" or "human"; and logos, meaning "thought" or "reason." Anthropologists attempt, by investigating the whole range of human development and behavior, to achieve a total description of cultural and social phenomena.