He reasoned that a state of equilibrium must exist wherein the rate of carbon-14 production was equal to its rate of decay, dating back millennia.
It showed all of Libby’s results lying within a narrow statistical range of the known ages, thus proving the success of radiocarbon dating.
Top of page The “Curve of Knowns” compared the known age of historical artifacts associated with the Bible, Pompeii, and Egyptian dynasties with their age as determined by radiocarbon dating.
They also sampled artifacts from museums such as a piece of timber from Egyptian pharaoh Senusret III’s funerary boat, an object whose age was known by the record of its owner’s death.
In 1949, Libby and Arnold published their findings in the journal Science, introducing the “Curve of Knowns.” This graph compared the known age of artifacts with the estimated age as determined by the radiocarbon dating method.
Theoretically, if one could detect the amount of carbon-14 in an object, one could establish that object’s age using the half-life, or rate of decay, of the isotope.