This is a radiometric technique since it is based on radioactive decay.

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It cannot be used to accurately date a site on its own.

However, it can be used to confirm the antiquity of an item.

An additional problem with carbon-14 dates from archeological sites is known as the "old wood" problem.

It is possible, particularly in dry, desert climates, for organic materials such as from dead trees to remain in their natural state for hundreds of years before people use them as firewood or building materials, after which they become part of the archaeological record.

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 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.

Heating an item to 500 degrees Celsius or higher releases the trapped electrons, producing light.

This light can be measured to determine the last time the item was heated. Fluctuating levels can skew results – for example, if an item went through several high radiation eras, thermoluminescence will return an older date for the item.

The relatively short half-life of carbon-14, 5,730 years, makes the reliable only up to about 50,000 years.