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The older a sample is, the less (the period of time after which half of a given sample will have decayed) is about 5,730 years, the oldest dates that can be reliably measured by this process date to around 50,000 years ago, although special preparation methods occasionally permit accurate analysis of older samples.
The idea behind radiocarbon dating is straightforward, but years of work were required to develop the technique to the point where accurate dates could be obtained.
Radio carbon dating determines the age of ancient objects by means of measuring the amount of carbon-14 there is left in an object.
A man called Willard F Libby pioneered it at the University of Chicago in the 50's. This is now the most widely used method of age estimation in the field of archaeology.