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Archaeologists have documented that the development of agriculture took place about 10,000 years ago.
At that time, most archaeological work was confined to Europe, to the so-called cradle of civilization in southwestern Asia, and to a few areas of the Americas.
These remains include the fossils (preserved bones) of humans, food remains, the ruins of buildings, and human artifactsitems such as tools, pottery, and jewelry.
From their studies, archaeologists attempt to reconstruct past ways of life.
Archaeology is an important field of anthropology, which is the broad study of human culture and biology.
Archaeologists concentrate their studies on past societies and changes in those societies over extremely long periods of time.
The earliest subjects of archaeological study date from the origins of humanity.
These include fossil remains believed to be of human ancestors who lived 3.5 million to 4.5 million years ago.
Laetoli even reveals footprints of humans from 3.6 million years ago.
Some sites also contain evidence of the earliest use of simple tools.
Many of the objects left behind by past human societies are not present in the archaeological record because they have disintegrated over time.
The material remains that still exist after hundreds, thousands, or millions of years have survived because of favorable preservation conditions in the soil or atmosphere.
Archaeology plays a major role in the study of early civilizations, such as those of the Sumerians of Mesopotamia, who built the city of Ur, and the ancient Egyptians, who are famous for the pyramids near the city of Giza and the royal sepulchers (tombs) of the Valley of the Kings at Thebes.