Carbon dating only
The rates of decay of various radioactive isotopes have been accurately measured in the laboratory and have been shown to be constant, even in extreme temperatures and pressures.
These rates are usually expressed as the isotope's half-life--that is, the time it takes for one-half of the parent isotopes to decay.
(The nucleus of an atom is made up of protons and neutrons.) For example, the element carbon, which always has six protons in its nucleus, has three isotopes: one with six neutrons in the nucleus, one with seven, and one with eight.
Some isotopes are stable, but some are unstable or radioactive.
Once the organism dies, it stops replenishing its carbon supply, and the total carbon-14 content in the organism slowly disappears.
Scientists can determine how long ago an organism died by measuring how much carbon-14 is left relative to the carbon-12.
Geologists do not use carbon-based radiometric dating to determine the age of rocks.
Radiocarbon is not suitable for this purpose because it is only applicable: a) on a time scale of thousands of years and b) to remains of once-living organisms (with minor exceptions, from which rocks are excluded).They used pottery and other materials in sites to date 'relatively'.They thought that sites which had the same kinds of pots and tools would be the same age.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.