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We know that it is older than Christendom, but whether by a couple of years or a couple of centuries, or even by more than a millenium, we can do no more than guess." [Rasmus Nyerup, (Danish antiquarian), 1802 (in Trigger, 19)].
The person who wrote these words lived in the 1800s, many years before archaeologists could accurately date materials from archaeological sites using scientific methods.
It is also possible that some of the carbon-14 in the fossil and coal samples arises from the conversion of nitrogen-14 to carbon-14 driven by the decay of radioactive elements in the environment.
Because fossils and coal derive from once-living organisms, there will be plenty of nitrogen-14 contained in these specimens.
Welcome to the K12 section of the Radiocarbon WEBinfo site.
But while the difficulties of single life may be intractable, the challenge of determining the age of prehistoric artifacts and fossils is greatly aided by measuring certain radioactive isotopes.For example, environmental uranium and thorium would readily infuse into the interiors of fossils, and as these elements decay, the high energy they release will convert nitrogen-14 to carbon-14.Employing a “back-of-the-envelope” flux analysis, Vernon Cupps—a YEC affiliated with the Institute of Creation Research—has challenged my assessment, concluding that neither (1) the production of carbon-14 from cosmic radiation nor (2) the decay of radioactive isotopes in the environment is sufficient to account for the carbon-14 detected in fossil and geological samples..Carbon-14, or radiocarbon, is a naturally occurring radioactive isotope that forms when cosmic rays in the upper atmosphere strike nitrogen molecules, which then oxidize to become carbon dioxide.Green plants absorb the carbon dioxide, so the population of carbon-14 molecules is continually replenished until the plant dies.