Radio carbon dating mistakes

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Several factors affect radiocarbon test results, not all of which are easy to control objectively.For this reason, it’s preferable to date objects using multiple methods, rather than relying on one single test.Even then, a large proportion of radiocarbon dating tests return inconsistent, or even incoherent, results, even for tests done on the same sample.The explanation given for these outliers is usually “contamination.” Inconsistent results are another reason why multiple samples, multiples tests, and various parallel methods are used to date objects.

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.

Likewise, different living things absorb or reject carbon-14 at different rates.

Two plants that died at the same moment, but which naturally contained different levels of radiocarbon, could be dated to drastically different times.

For example, a steel spearhead cannot be carbon dated, so archaeologists might perform testing on the wooden shaft it was attached to.

This provides good information, but it only indicates how long ago that piece of wood was cut from a living tree.

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