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Such wood, turned into an artifact some time after the death of the tree, will reflect the date of the carbon in the wood. This limit is encountered when the radioactivity of the residual 14C in a sample is too low to be distinguished from the background radiation.

The K-Ar and uranium decay series are used in dating older objects (see Radiometric dating).

In 1960, Libby was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry for carbon dating.

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Later a more accurate figure of 5730 -40 years was measured, which is known as the Cambridge half-life.

However laboratories continue to use the Libby figure to avoid confusion.

Traditionally this includes only the statistical counting uncertainty and some labs supply an "error multiplier" that can be multiplied by the uncertainty to account for other sources of error in the measuring process.

Additional error is likely to arise from the nature and collection of the sample itself, e.g., a tree may accumulate carbon over a significant period of time.

The AMS technique allows to date samples containing only a few mg of carbon.

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