Age range of carbon dating

Suess’s curve, based on the bristlecone pine, used tree rings for its calendar axis.

There have been many calibration curves published since Suess’s curve, but their proliferation brought more problems than solutions.

Calibration is not only done before an analysis but also on analytical results as in the case of radiocarbon dating—an analytical method that identifies the age of a material that once formed part of the biosphere by determining its carbon-14 content and tracing its age by its radioactive decay.

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In later years, the use of accelerator mass spectrometers and the introduction of high-precision carbon dating have also generated calibration curves.

A high-precision radiocarbon calibration curve published by a laboratory in Belfast, Northern Ireland, used dendrochronology data based on the Irish oak.

These changes were brought about by several factors including, but not limited to, fluctuations in the earth’s geomagnetic moment, fossil fuel burning, and nuclear testing.

The most popular and often used method for calibration is by dendrochronology.

Nowadays, the internationally agreed upon calendar calibration curves reach as far back as about 48000 BC (Reimer et.

al., INTCAL13 and Marine13 radiocarbon age calibration curves 0 – 50000 yrs cal BP, Radiocarbon 55(4), 2013).

The science of dendrochronology is based on the phenomenon that trees usually grow by the addition of rings, hence the name tree-ring dating.

Dendrochronologists date events and variations in environments in the past by analyzing and comparing growth ring patterns of trees and aged wood.

Results of carbon-14 dating are reported in radiocarbon years, and calibration is needed to convert radiocarbon years into calendar years.

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