Overview of Methods Superposition Stratigraphy Dendrochronology Radiocarbon C14 Radiometric Dating Methods Obsidian Hydration Dating Paleomagnetic/Archaeomagnetic Luminescence Dating Methods Amino Acid Racemization Fission-track Dating Ice Cores Varves Pollens Corals Cation Ratio Fluorine Dating Patination Oxidizable Carbon Ratio Electron Spin Resonance Cosmic-ray Exposure Dating This is an excellent overview of dating methodologies, and is a chapter in a textbook on Archaeology.
You may find it useful for the clear definitions, and for excellent links on a variety of topic.
The Mayan calendar used 3114 BC as their reference.
More recently is the radiocarbon date of 1950 AD or before present, BP.
This is calculated through careful measurement of the residual activity (per gram C) remaining in a sample whose age is Unknown, compared with the activity present in Modern and Background samples. Thus 1950, is year 0 BP by convention in radiocarbon dating and is deemed to be the 'present'.
You can get an idea of the relationship between C14 and age at the Carbon Dating calculator page. 1950 was chosen for no particular reason other than to honour the publication of the first radiocarbon dates calculated in December 1949 (Taylor, 19).
Chronological sequence is all that is really required.
When it comes to dating archaeological samples, several timescale problems arise.
For example, Christian time counts the birth of Christ as the beginning, AD 1 (Anno Domini); everything that occurred before Christ is counted backwards from AD as BC (Before Christ).
Ninety-five percent of the activity of Oxalic Acid from the year 1950 is equal to the measured activity of the absolute radiocarbon standard which is 1890 wood.
This is the International Radiocarbon Dating Standard.
Another standard, Oxalic Acid II was prepared when stocks of HOx 1 began to dwindle. The ratio of the activity of Oxalic acid II to 1 is 1.29330.001 (the weighted mean) (Mann, 1983). There are other secondary radiocarbon standards, the most common is ANU (Australian National University) sucrose.