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      W F Libby and the Archaeologists, 1946-1948

      Radiocarbon
      Cambridge University Press (CUP)

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          Abstract

          Archaeologists began to participate in cross-disciplinary endeavors in the 1930's, albeit on a very limited basis. The passage of time found members of that discipline unprepared for collaboration with physical scientists when W F Libby announced the development of the radiocarbon dating method. Libby proposed to apply to

          archeologic and geologic samples techniques based on ideas that were completely foreign to archeology …. The initial reactions of archeologists were sometimes amusing but more often significant, for they led to the foundation and emergence of the radiocarbon chronology that has so profoundly affected our understanding of prehistory (Johnson, 1967, p 165).

          To date, our historical knowledge about the nature, function, and impact of the early (1946-1948) relations between Libby and American archaeologists has come to us in the form of published anecdotes, many of which contain inaccurate information. The author's access to W F Libby's private 14C correspondence, combined with data obtained from interviews with some of the principal participants throughout this period, offers many new or different insights into the nascent years of radiocarbon dating. When, and under what unexpected cricumstances, did Libby first encounter representatives of the achaeologic community? What strategies were employed to facilitate diffusion of knowledge about 14C dating across disciplinary boundaries? How did archaeologists respond to the introduction or “intrusion” into their field of Libby's radioactive age-measurement tool?

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          Most cited references9

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          Age Determination by Radiocarbon Content: World-Wide Assay of Natural Radiocarbon

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            Lord Kelvin and the Age of the Earth

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              Radiocarbon From Cosmic Radiation.

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Radiocarbon
                Radiocarbon
                Cambridge University Press (CUP)
                0033-8222
                1945-5755
                1980
                July 18 2016
                1980
                : 22
                : 3
                : 1005-1014
                Article
                10.1017/S0033822200010432
                7e4d1499-8823-41c5-9cc5-eea7adc83a56
                © 1980

                https://www.cambridge.org/core/terms

                History

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