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But even he “realized that there probably would be variation”, says Christopher Bronk Ramsey, a geochronologist at the University of Oxford, UK, who led the latest work, published today in Science.
Various geologic, atmospheric and solar processes can influence atmospheric carbon-14 levels.
Carbon dating has given archeologists a more accurate method by which they can determine the age of ancient artifacts.
Libby invented carbon dating for which he received the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1960.
In this interactive, learn how radiocarbon dating works, what it takes to determine a date in the lab, and why it's challenging to pinpoint a date precisely.
Beta Analytic uses Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) technology, which gives the most advanced precision and accuracy for Carbon-14 measurements.
All persons depicted here in were at least 18 years of age.
The problem, says Bronk Ramsey, is that tree rings provide a direct record that only goes as far back as about 14,000 years.
Marine records, such as corals, have been used to push farther back in time, but these are less robust because levels of carbon-14 in the atmosphere and the ocean are not identical and tend shift with changes in ocean circulation.
Organisms capture a certain amount of carbon-14 from the atmosphere when they are alive.
By measuring the ratio of the radio isotope to non-radioactive carbon, the amount of carbon-14 decay can be worked out, thereby giving an age for the specimen in question.
The lab also provides stable isotope analyses on a standalone basis.