Using measurements of almost 15,000 samples of objects dating back 60,000 yearsAs part of a seven-year project, the carbon dating technique has been improved to assess the age of historical objects,

The finding comes from a team of researchers from the universities of Sheffield, Belfast, Bristol, Glasgow, Oxford, St Andrews and Historic England and the results have been published in Radiocarbon magazine.

Radiocarbon curves

Radiocarbon dating is the most widely used method for dating the last 55,000 years and supports archaeological and environmental science. It was first developed in 1949. It depends on two isotopes of carbon called stable 12C and radioactive 14C.

The project used measurements to create new international radiocarbon calibration curves (IntCal): IntCal calibration curves are key to helping answer big questions about the environment and our place within it.

The curves are created from the compilation of a large number of files that store radiocarbon past, but can also be dated by another method.

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Previous radiocarbon calibration curves developed over the last 50 years relied heavily on measurements taken from pieces of wood covering 10 to 20 years large enough to be analyzed by radiocarbon.

The team of researchers has developed three curves that depend on where the object to be dated is located. The new curves are IntCal20 for the northern hemisphere, SHCal20 for the southern hemisphere and Marine20 for the world’s oceans. The updated curves use tiny samples, such as tree rings that cover only one year, that provide previously impossible detail and precision in the new calibration curves.

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