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When these energetic neutrons collide with a nitrogen-14 (seven protons, seven neutrons) atom it turns into a carbon-14 atom (six protons, eight neutrons) and a hydrogen atom (one proton, zero neutrons).
Since Nitrogen gas makes up about 78 percent of the Earth's air, by volume, a considerable amount of Carbon-14 is produced.
This is a major concern for bone dates where pretreatment procedures must be employed to isolate protein or a specific amino acid such as hydroxyproline (known to occur almost exclusively in bone collagen) to ensure accurate age assessments of bone specimens.
Alone, or in concert, these factors can lead to inaccuracies and misinterpretations by archaeologists without proper investigation of the potential problems associated with sampling and dating.
Regardless of the particular 14C technique used, the value of this tool for archaeology has clearly been appreciated.