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But material from the time of the pyramids lends itself well to radiocarbon dating because they fall into the 2575-1640 date range.Radiocarbon technicians prefer to test wood and wood charcoal because their high molecular weight mitigates material loss during the rigorous pretreatments required for radiocarbon testing.It is likely that, by the pyramid age, the Egyptians had been intensively exploiting wood for fuel for a long time.Because of the scarcity and expense of wood, the Egyptians would reuse pieces of wood as much as possible.We focused our collection efforts on tiny pieces of these materials, along with reed and straw left by the ancient builders.
One radioactive, or unstable, carbon isotope is C14, which decays over time and therefore provides scientists with a kind of clock for measuring the age of organic material.We then compared our results with the mid-point dates of the kings to whom the monuments belonged (Cambridge Ancient History, 3rd ed.).The average radiocarbon dates were 374 years earlier than expected.The radioactive carbon isotope is no longer replenished; it only decays.
Scientists have calculated the rate at which C14 decays.The number of dates from the two projects was only large enough to allow for statistical comparisons for the pyramids of Djoser, Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure. First, there are significant discrepancies between the 19 dates for Khufu and Khafre, but not for Djoser and Menkaure.