How to radiometric dating

Other high profile projects include the dating of the Turin Shroud to the medieval period, the dating of the Dead Sea Scrolls to around the time of Christ, and the somewhat controversial dating of the spectacular rock art at Chauvet Cave to c.38,000 cal BP (c.32,000 BP) – thousands of years earlier than expected.Radiocarbon dating has also been used to date the extinction of the woolly mammoth and contributed to the debate over whether modern humans and Neanderthals met.In addition, samples need to be thoroughly cleaned to remove carbon contamination from glues and soil before dating.This is particularly important for very old samples.

Then, by using the idea that the styles of objects evolve, becoming increasing elaborate over time, they could place them in order relative to each other - a technique called seriation.

From these records a “calibration curve” can be built (see figure 2, below).

A huge amount of work is currently underway to extend and improve the calibration curve.

If 1% of the carbon in a 50,000 year old sample is from a modern contaminant, the sample will be dated to around 40,000 years.

Because of this, radiocarbon chemists are continually developing new methods to more effectively clean materials.

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