If one knows how much of this radioactive material was present initially in the object (by determining how much of the material has decayed), and one knows the half-life of the material, one can deduce the age of the object.Radioactive dating is a method of dating rocks and minerals using radioactive isotopes.
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Others place mineral grains under a special microscope, firing a laser beam at the grains which ionises the mineral and releases the isotopes.
The isotopes are then measured within the same machine by an attached mass spectrometer (an example of this is SIMS analysis).
The amount of carbon isotopes within living organisms reaches an equilibrium value, on death no more is taken up, and the 14C present starts to decay at a known rate.
The amount of 14C present and the known rate of decay of 14C and the equilibrium value gives the length of time elapsed since the death of the organism.
This is a common dating method mainly used by archaeologists, as it can only date geologically recent organic materials, usually charcoal, but also bone and antlers.