This is made up of numerous regional tree-ring chronologies, particularly in the medieval and post-medieval periods, for which the laboratory now has more than 200 reference chronologies from many areas. By comparing the proportion of K-40 to Ar-40 in a sample of volcanic rock, and knowing the decay rate of K-40, the date that the rock formed can be determined.There are over 130 radiocarbon dating laboratories around the world producing radiocarbon assays for the scientific community. A series of movie clips walks you through the process.
Information about Simon Winchester's delightful biography of Smith, The Map That Changed the World is available at Tree-Ring dating is based on the principle that the growth rings on certain species of trees reflect variations in seasonal and annual rainfall.
However, human beings love to see factual precision, and we want to know how old something is.