This tendency to decay, called radioactivity, is what gives radiocarbon the name radiocarbon.The atmosphere contains many stable carbon atoms and relatively few radiocarbon atoms.

The foregoing article was primarily based on a discussion of radiocarbon dating found in The Biblical Chronologist Volume 5, Number 1.

Chronological dating, or simply dating, is the process of attributing to an object or event a date in the past, allowing such object or event to be located in a previously established chronology.

But this method is also useful in many other disciplines.

Historians, for example, know that Shakespeare's play Henry V was not written before 1587 because Shakespeare's primary source for writing his play was the second edition of Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles, not published until 1587.

Radiocarbon dating works by precisely measuring the ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon in a sample. The tree-ring chronologies have been constructed by counting the annual rings in living trees and matching patterns in these rings to older wood and dead trees.

By cross-matching tree-ring sequences in individual specimens a long, continuous tree-ring chronology is constructed with very little dating uncertainty. for more information on tree-ring chronologies.) By measuring radiocarbon concentrations in these tree-rings of known age a calibration table is constructed giving the true date of a sample versus its raw radiocarbon date.

Thus the ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon in living animal tissue is also virtually the same as the ratio of radiocarbon to stable carbon in the atmosphere at any given time.

This ratio is the same for all organisms across the globe at a given time due to the mixing of the atmosphere mentioned above.

This usually requires what is commonly known as a "dating method".