Carbon Dating 2020

23 May 2020

Another re-calibration of C14 dating is underway. It could shift prehistoric dates by hundreds of years. Why? Well, just look at what it is going to be partnered with. Not just tree rings and lake varves but ocean sediment cores, stalagmites from caves, shells, corals etc. as well as comparisons between different dating systems. A hoge potch if you like. One might wonder if they have recruited some climate scientists to create fog. Go to ... but a New Zealand archaeologist is quoted as saying, may be I have been in lockdown for too long - yet went on to express excitement. However, later we learn that only small changes are anticipated - between IntCal2013 and IntCal2020.

The basics of carbon dating is simple, we are told. All living things absorb carbon from the atmosphere and food sources around them, including natural radio-active C14. When a plant or animal dies they stop absorbing - but the radio-active carbon hey have accumulated continues to decay, It is thought to have a limit, around 40,000 years ago). Measuring the amount left over gives an estimate as to how long something has been dead. In practice, as it is based on the assumption that the amount of C14 in the environment has been constant - in time and space. That was always a vain hope it would seem as it has clearly not been constant. Hence, the requirement to re-calibrate with other methodologies involved in dating. Some of these are inexact and provide a rough date (such as speleology). In recent decades nuclear bomb tests have altered the amount of C14 in the air - and burning fossil fuels such as coal effects how much carbon is in the atmosphere. There are lots of wobbles in the amount of C14 in the atmosphere at any given time during the past - and even in prehistory. These are normally described as plateau events. This involves an injection of extra C14 into the atmosphere which tends to affect raw C14 data over a number of years until the excess is dissipated. Some of these plateau events are well known to archaeologists (in the Iron Age for example) but how does anyone know how many plateau events occurred over the last 10,000 years. At times there is more solar radiation entering the atmosphere producting greater amounts of radio-active C14. In the 13th century AD for example. It has not been confirmed what might be causing these excess episodes. It could be extra big coronal mass ejections for example, or conversely, during solar minimums we might get an extra dose of radiation from other stars. Research is ongoing. Generally, plateau events are short lived pulses but there is no reason why in the past they were much bigger events. At the moment there are conversion tables to match calendar dates with radiocarbon in different regions. We now have IntCal20 to replace IntCal13 and in the southern hemisphere, SHCal20, and from marine samples, MarineCal20. This will all be published in the journal Radiocarbon this year.

The further we go back the further the anomalies are. For example, IntCal20 used on a human jawbone found in Romania is apparently hundreds of years older than previously dated. Genetic analysis seems to show it is just four to six generations removed from a Neanderthal ancestor. I had to pause reading at that moment. Wow. This is just casually stated and I nearly missed it. Four to six generations removed from a Neanderthal ancestor. Are they saying that the skull belongs to someone that is literally an ancestor and if so does that mean that Neanderthals did not die out but still live among us.

In contrast, the oldest modern human fossil in Eurasia (unearthed in Siberia) is now a thousand years younger that previously allowed. Does this mean plateau events have intervened and require pinpointing.

The same subject has cropped up on the New Chronology forum. According to Jaap Titulaer some prehistoric dates that wildly differed between the different methodologies, such as UT, have been minimised by down dating radio carbon by hundreds of years. Sounds like some kind of compromise has occurred. In the period 3000BC to the time of Christ, the biggest change occurs in the 16th to 18th centuries BC - which is complicated by the fabled eruption of the Thera volcano. This directly affects dates in Bronze Age chronology and is a bit deep to enter in here. No doubt Bob Porter will update the SIS members and readers in an upcoming 2020 issue of SIS Review. Unfortunately, IntCal20 does not really address the differences in dates produced by different university carbon 14 laboratories - which is the real issue they should be addressing. Why does one lab date a sample to a date different to another lab? Money is of course involved, and 'the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil' (I Timothy 6:10). One would like to think scientists are interested in getting at the truth rather than bending an ear to the one that pays the piper.