In order for carbon dating to be accurate, we must know what the ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-14 was in the environment in which our specimen lived during its lifetime.
during the industrial revolution more carbon-12 was being produced offsetting the ratio a bit).
This means that things like stone, metal and pottery cannot usually be directly dated by this means unless there is some organic material embedded or left as a residue.
Many scientists will use carbon dating test results to back up their position if the results agree with their preconceived theories.
But if the carbon dating results actually conflict with their ideas, they aren't too concerned. Thorpe, Nikos Kokkinos, Robert Morkot and John Frankish), Preface to Centuries of Darkness, 1991) So, is carbon dating accurate?
The short answer is that the underlying physics behind radiocarbon dating was worked out, by many people, between the 1910s and 1940s. They measured the actual carbon-14 remaining in these, and found that it was very close to the predicted amount.
There's a nice review here of how radiocarbon dating was developed: . Arnold and Libby knew how much carbon-14 should be remaining in these objects, given their known ages.
This fact should always be remembered when using radiocarbon dates.
The dating process is always designed to try to extract the carbon from a sample which is most representative of the original organism. Furthermore, the ratio is known to fluctuate significantly over relatively short periods of time (e.g. Unfortunately the ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-14 has yet to reach a state of equilibrium in our atmosphere; there is more carbon-14 in the air today than there was thousands of years ago.Unfortunately, tree ring dating is itself not entirely reliable, especially the "long chronology" employed to calibrate the carbon dating method.The result is that carbon dating is accurate for only a few thousand years. This fact is born out in how carbon dating results are used by scientists in the scientific literature.Unfortunately, we aren't able to reliably date artifacts beyond several thousand years.