TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Radiocarbon-dating, a technique used for dating the last 55,000 years, is now set to become more accurate than ever thanks to the collaboration between the University of Arizona with national and international partners.
In a series of papers, the team of researchers recalculated and adjusted the international radiocarbon calibration- tools used by researchers across many disciplines to accurately date artifacts and make predictions about the future.
Radiocarbon-dating works by analyzing the ratios of different kinds of carbon atoms in an object. This allows archaeologists and scientists to date everything from the oldest modern human bones to historic climate patterns.
The team of researchers developed three curves for the radiocarbon-dating method- one for analyzing objects found in the northern hemisphere, the second for analyzing objects found in the southern hemisphere and the third for analyzing objects found in the world’s oceans.
“It’s hard to overstate the importance of these new IntCal curves for improving what we know about our past,” said Charlotte Pearson, UArizona assistant professor of dendrochronology, anthropology and geosciences, and a member of the IntCal Working Group.
Previous radiocarbon-dating curves heavily relied on measurements taken from chunks of wood coverings with 10-20 years of consecutive tree ring growth. The updated method only needs smaller samples, such as tree rings coverings with single years. Reports say the results are even more precise than before.
The new curves have been published by the University of Arizona’s Department of Geosciences, in partnership with Cambridge University. The journal began in 1959 and has been published by UArizona since 1989.
The research team used measurements from over 15,000 samples from objects dating back as far as 60,000 years over a 7 year time frame.
“As we improve the calibration curve, we learn more about our history,” said Paula Reimer, head of the IntCal project and a professor at Queen’s University Belfast. “The IntCal calibration curves are key to helping answer big questions about the environment and our place within it.”
Pearson and her team recently used annual radiocarbon data from tree rings to constrain the date of the ancient Thera volcano eruption – one of the largest eruptions humanity has ever witnessed.