The development of Atomic Absorption Mass Spectrometry in recent years, a technique that allows one to count the individual atoms of 14C remaining in a sample instead of measuring the radioactive decay of the 14C, has considerably broadened the applicability of radiocarbon dating because it is now possible to date much smaller samples, as small as a grain of rice, for example.
Dendrochronology is another archaeological dating technique in which tree rings are used to date pieces of wood to the exact year in which they were cut down.
Chronometric methods include radiocarbon, potassium-argon, fission-track, and thermoluminescence.
The most common relative dating method is stratigraphy.
Other methods include fluorine dating, nitrogen dating, association with bones of extinct fauna, association with certain pollen profiles, association with geological features such as beaches, terraces and river meanders, and the establishment of cultural seriations.
C-12 is by far the most common isotope, while only about one in a trillion carbon atoms is C-14.
C-14 is produced in the upper atmosphere when nitrogen-14 (N-14) is altered through the effects of cosmic radiation bombardment (a proton is displaced by a neutron effectively changing the nitrogen atom into a carbon isotope).
The period of time that it takes for half of a sample to decay is called a "half-life." Radiocarbon oxidizes (that is, it combines with oxygen) and enters the biosphere through natural processes like breathing and eating.