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Absolute dating is the process of determining an age on a specified chronology in archaeology and geology.
Potassium-40 is a radioactive isotope of potassium that decays into argon-40.
Thus dating that particular tree does not necessarily indicate when the fire burned or the structure was built.
For this reason, many archaeologists prefer to use samples from short-lived plants for radiocarbon dating.
K–Ar dating was used to calibrate the geomagnetic polarity time scale.
Thermoluminescence testing also dates items to the last time they were heated.
The half-life of potassium-40 is 1.3 billion years, far longer than that of carbon-14, allowing much older samples to be dated.
Potassium is common in rocks and minerals, allowing many samples of geochronological or archeological interest to be dated.
This technique is based on the principle that all objects absorb radiation from the environment.
This process frees electrons within minerals that remain caught within the item.
The development of accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) dating, which allows a date to be obtained from a very small sample, has been very useful in this regard.
Other radiometric dating techniques are available for earlier periods.
In historical geology, the primary methods of absolute dating involve using the radioactive decay of elements trapped in rocks or minerals, including isotope systems from very young (radiocarbon dating with Radiometric dating is based on the known and constant rate of decay of radioactive isotopes into their radiogenic daughter isotopes.