A radiocarbon measurement is termed a conventional radiocarbon age (CRA).
It must be noted though that radiocarbon dating results indicate when the organism was alive but not when a material from that organism was used.
Background radiocarbon activity is measured, and the values obtained are deducted from the sample’s radiocarbon dating results.
Background samples analyzed are usually geological in origin of infinite age such as coal, lignite, and limestone.
The method does not count beta particles but the number of carbon atoms present in the sample and the proportion of the isotopes. Samples that have been radiocarbon dated since the inception of the method include charcoal, wood, twigs, seeds, bones, shells, leather, peat, lake mud, soil, hair, pottery, pollen, wall paintings, corals, blood residues, fabrics, paper or parchment, resins, and water, among others.
Physical and chemical pretreatments are done on these materials to remove possible contaminants before they are analyzed for their radiocarbon content.
An age could be estimated by measuring the amount of carbon-14 present in the sample and comparing this against an internationally used reference standard.