Maximum effective dating range for carbon 14 dating
Thus, carbon-daters know the precise adjustments, year by year, to make to an initial radiocarbon dating to account for fluctuations in absorption rates over time.
Generally, contamination is removed by chemical cleaning prior to dating.
Given all these constraints, a sample can only be dated to a range of time.
Second (and more serious) hurdle: calculating the radioactive decay based on a fixed half-life assumes that the amount of C-14 in the atmosphere has been reasonably constant, and that the rate of absorption by plants and animals has also been reasonably constant.
This is not so; in some periods organisms have absorbed more or less C-14 than in others.
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Fortunately, we are mostly able to correct for this.