The accuracy of radiocarbon dating

In short, carbon dating is as useful as any other technique, so long as it’s done properly and the results are objectively interpreted.It is not, however, an inherently error-free or black-and-white method for dating objects.

Two plants that died at the same moment, but which naturally contained different levels of radiocarbon, could be dated to drastically different times.When an organism dies, it stops taking in new carbon-14, and whatever is inside gradually decays into other elements.Carbon-14 normally makes up about 1 trillionth (1/1,000,000,000,000) of the earth’s atmosphere.The other major factor affecting the results of carbon dating is gauging the original proportion of carbon-14 itself.Carbon dating is based on the loss of carbon-14, so, even if the present amount in a specimen can be detected accurately, we must still know how much carbon-14 the organism started with.

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If the spear head is dated using animal bones nearby, the accuracy of the results is entirely dependent on the assumed link between the spear head and the animal.

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