Climate records from a Japanese lake are set to improve the accuracy of the dating technique, which could help to shed light on archaeological mysteries such as why Neanderthals became extinct.
Carbon dating is used to work out the age of organic material — in effect, any living thing.
“If you have a better estimate of when the last Neanderthals lived to compare to climate records in Greenland or elsewhere, then you’ll have a better idea of whether the extinction was climate driven or competition with modern humans,” says Paula Reimer, a geochronologist at Queen’s University in Belfast, UK.
She will lead efforts to combine the Lake Suigetsu measurements with marine and cave records to come up with a new standard for carbon dating.
That is, they take up less than would be expected and so they test older than they really are.
Furthermore, different types of plants discriminate differently.
Familiar to us as the black substance in charred wood, as diamonds, and the graphite in “lead” pencils, carbon comes in several forms, or isotopes.
One rare form has atoms that are 14 times as heavy as hydrogen atoms: carbon-14, or C ratio gets smaller.
Take the extinction of Neanderthals, which occurred in western Europe less than 30,000 years ago.We will deal with carbon dating first and then with the other dating methods.Carbon has unique properties that are essential for life on Earth.This is the “half-life.” So, in two half-lives, or 11,460 years, only one-quarter of that in living organisms at present, then it has a theoretical age of 11,460 years.Anything over about 50,000 years old, should theoretically have no detectable C.As a rule, carbon dates are younger than calendar dates: a bone carbon-dated to 10,000 years is around 11,000 years old, and 20,000 carbon years roughly equates to 24,000 calendar years.