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The measurement is based on an isotope of potassium that radioactively decays at a known rate into argon.K-Ar dating has been used to date lava flows above and below archaeological deposits that contain important hominid fossils in Africa's Olduvai Gorge.This 'law of superimposition' works in the well-defined layers of the Willandra lunettes, but only dates objects as younger or older than adjacent layers.To determine the year age (absolute age) of an object, a number of chemical and radioactive techniques can be used.It uses the fact that natural carbon contains a known ratio of ordinary carbon and the radioactive isotope carbon-14, and that this mix is reflected in carbon taken up by living organic materials such as wood, shells and bones.When organisms die, the carbon-14 begins to decay at a known rate.Four main methods have been used in Willandra archaeology.This well known method was the first technique that became available for accurate dating of old materials.

It is most useful for minerals older than 100,000 years and can reach way back into the geological past.

Carbon-14 has a half-life of 5,730 years so dating is limited to between a few hundred and about 50,000 years. It is also important that samples for dating are collected carefully to ensure they have not been contaminated with more recent carbon.

Radiocarbon analysis can only be used on organic materials, and is often used to date charcoal associated with campfires and archaeological deposits.

Archaeological methods have been refined over the decades to uncover as much data as possible about the societies that left this evidence.

In the past, archaeology was sometimes performed without the consent of local populations, often at the behest of occupying imperial nations.

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