In the new study using samples taken from Xingkai Lake near the Sino-Russian border in Heilongjiang province, the scientists used both radiocarbon dating and another method known as optically stimulated luminescence.

errors carbon dating-87

His theory was that all living creatures have a constant proportion of radioactive and non-radioactive carbons in their body because they keep absorbing these elements from the environment.

But as soon as the creature dies it stops absorbing these and sheds any trace of carbon-14 at a decay rate of 50 per cent every 5,700 years.

By measuring the remaining amount of carbon-14 in a sample, scientists could estimate the time of death up to 60,000 years ago.

Before that, all traces of radiocarbon would be too small to detect.

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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.

But the method had one major flaw: it didn’t account for changes in the proportion of radioactive and non-radioactive carbon in the environment; and if these had changed, the estimate would most likely be wrong.

Many events can affect the levels of carbon-14 in the atmosphere, such as the burning of fossil fuel or the detonation of an atom bomb.

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