How carbon dating works
The other two isotopes in comparison are more common than carbon-14 in the atmosphere but increase with the burning of fossil fuels making them less reliable for study (2); carbon-14 also increases, but its relative rarity means its increase is negligible. After this point, other Absolute Dating methods may be used.
The other method is “Relative Dating” which gives an order of events without giving an exact age (1): typically artefact typology or the study of the sequence of the evolution of fossils.
The next big step in the radiocarbon dating method would be Accelerated Mass Spectrometry which was developed in the late 1980s and published its first results in 1994 (3).
This was a giant leap forward in that it offered far more accurate dates for a far smaller sample (9); this made destruction of samples a far less delicate issue to researchers, especially on artefacts such as The Shroud of Turin for which accurate dates were now possible without damaging a significant part of the artefact.
Radiocarbon dating is simply a measure of the level of C isotopes in the atmosphere can vary.
This is why calibration against objects whose age is known is required (14).
It also has some applications in geology; its importance in dating organic materials cannot be underestimated enough.