Problems with using carbon dating

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New research shows, however, that some estimates based on carbon may have erred by thousands of years.

It is too soon to know whether the discovery will seriously upset the estimated dates of events like the arrival of human beings in the Western Hemisphere, scientists said.

Radiocarbon dating can be used on samples of bone, cloth, wood and plant fibers.

The best gauge they have found is dendrochronology: the measurement of age by tree rings.

In the case of radiocarbon dating, the half-life of carbon 14 is 5,730 years.

This half life is a relatively small number, which means that carbon 14 dating is not particularly helpful for very recent deaths and deaths more than 50,000 years ago.

So, the fossil is 8,680 years old, meaning the living organism died 8,680 years ago.

This is a digitized version of an article from The Times’s print archive, before the start of online publication in 1996.

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