New research will allow more reliable dating of major past events

Dec 03, 2013
New research will allow more reliable dating of major past events
New method could be used to date items like a recently discovered baby mammoth in Siberia.

Academics have developed a new method which will allow key past events to be dated more accurately.

Research led by Professors Paul Blackwell and Caitlin Buck from the University of Sheffield's School of Mathematics and Statistics and Professor Paula Reimer from Queen's University Belfast has resulted in a new, internationally agreed radiocarbon calibration curve which will provide improved accuracy to archaeologists, and climate researchers who rely on radiocarbon dating to put their findings onto a reliable time-scale.

The release of the new curve will mean that more precise date estimates can be obtained than previously possible and will reduce uncertainty about the timing of major events in the history and development of humans, plants and animals and the environments in which they lived.

The radiocarbon calibration curve would allow researchers to reliably date everything from items like the recently excavated bones of King Richard III, to confirm they were from the right time period, to baby preserved in permafrost in Siberia. It also provides reliable time-scales for those seeking to understand ancient environments, including members of the International Panel on Climate Change.

Professor Caitlin Buck, from the University of Sheffield, said: "We are proud to have developed such an important tool for archaeologists and environmental scientists, allowing them to more accurately date their findings and reduce uncertainty about the timings of major events. We're also grateful to the more than 30 other scientists who have shared data and research ideas with us to make it all possible."

Professor Paula Reimer, from Queen's University Belfast added: "This project built on research begun in the 1980s at Queen's and elsewhere and is essential for the continued utility and development of dating."

Explore further: Researchers pinpoint when the First Dynasty of kings ruled Early Egypt

More information: The research paper is published in the current issue of the journal Radiocarbon and can be viewed in full via

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User comments : 4

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1.5 / 5 (8) Dec 03, 2013
This won't stop the Usual Suspects carbon-dating a dinosaur bone, and taking its ground-water borne contaminants' 'date' as gospel truth...
3 / 5 (2) Dec 03, 2013
Ah, you mean the Suspects That Usually Perpetrate Idiotic Dumbosities (STUPID) gang! Because more precise carbon-dating would still run out somewhere ~ 44 ka bp, which is 1/1000th of a youngest non-avian dinosaur fossil age...
1.7 / 5 (6) Dec 03, 2013
Torbjorn: That's not a problem if you believe the earth was created a handful of millenia ago, lol.

nik_kelly_54: Here's a tip, any time that you conclude that your opinion on something means that very smart people are wrong in an obviously stupid way, you're the one that's wrong.

Why? It's because you make things up and then believe them. Things that are true actually require more than that.
Here's a fine example:
"taking its ground-water borne contaminants' 'date' as gospel truth..."
Wow. It's just shockingly plain that you made that up since radiocarbon dating isn't useful for "dinosaur bones".

The solution? It's obvious that you don't actually care to understand complex topics. My recommendation for you is simply to abstain from making a fool of yourself any time that you conclude that very smart people are wrong for stupid and obvious reasons. Because hopefully I have now armed you with the knowledge that it is indeed your imagination that is likely wrong.
3 / 5 (2) Dec 03, 2013
Requiem, one of my co-workers believed passionately in a 'Young Earth'. Given that our scientific qualifications and duties were strictly 'evidence based', I found his faith-driven position bizarre.

"Contamination can also occur before the sample is collected: humic acids or carbonate from soil can leach into a sample," And C's decay rate puts a limit of ~60k years BP on dating.

These considerations did not prevent my co-worker quoting daft dating results for fossils obtained by triumphant evangelical field teams.
Go figure...

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