The inaccuracies of radiocarbon dating could change the timeline of the story

Archaeologists discovered that radiocarbon dating produces a 20-year compensation on calendar dates for organic material. However small, this tiny variation can totally alter the timeline of the story.
( Stuart Manning | Cornell University )

Inaccurate minutes in radiocarbon dating can cause a mbadive review of the historical timeline, researchers who studied anomalies in this method of dating have found.

In questioning certain badumptions underlying radiocarbon dating, a team of researchers from Cornell University discovered 20- annual offsets in the calibration of radiocarbon dating used in the archaeologically significant region of the South Levante, which is composed of Israel, Egypt and Jordan.

These compensations could significantly alter calendar dates of significant historical events and could have enormous implications for the study of archeology and history.

How does radiocarbon dating work?

Radiocarbon dating is a widely used method to establish the age of fossils of plants and animals, as well as other relics composed of organic material. Researchers use radiocarbon dating to establish archaeological time scales for certain periods of history and prehistory.

In pre-modern time scales, archaeologists use standardized calibration curves for the northern and southern hemispheres to determine the dates of the organic material. This method relies on the badumption that, in any given period, radiocarbon levels are similar and stable at all places within a hemisphere.

It is this same badumption that Stuart Manning, director of the Cornell Tree-Ring Laboratory, and his team dared to challenge.

Variations in radiocarbon levels cause tradeoffs

Analysis of modern weather conditions reveals fluctuating levels of radiocarbon over the past 50 years. It is also a fact that plants in the northern and southern hemispheres grow in different places at different times.

What Manning and his team set out to discover is whether the radiocarbon levels relevant to radiocarbon dating also varied in different areas over a certain period of time. They also wanted to know if any variation could cause mbadive changes in how historical events have been placed along the timeline.

To answer your question, the researchers took samples of tree rings from plants aged between 1610 and 1940 in southern Jordan and measured their carbon ages 14. They discovered that there was a 19-year lag in the organic material in comparison with the standard calibration curve for the northern hemisphere.

Implications of a 20-year lag

Applying the 20-year lag at previously established time scales, the researchers found that even a small variation can create changes in the historical calendar, enough to cause strong implications in historical, archaeological and paleoclimatic debates.

Because studies have been using radiocarbon dating, the 20-year compensation could create inaccuracies in the research that could have led researchers to different findings.

The southern region of Levante is an area of ​​historical importance, where scholars accumulate to study the remains of the Iron Age and the biblical period. The sophisticated research projects carried out in the area require very precise findings, which then become established history.

"Our work indicates that it is arguable that its fundamental basis is defective," says Manning. "They are using a calibration curve that is not accurate for this region."

It calls for rethinking archaeological research, particularly the studies that are conducted in the southern Levante region, and the possible revision of archaeological time scales that may well alter the timeline of history.

The details of the study are published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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