This update on radiocarbon calibration results from the 19th International Radiocarbon Conference at Oxford in April 2006, and is essential reading for all archaeologists. The way radiocarbon dates and absolute dates relate to each other differs in three periods: back to 12400 cal BP, radiocarbon dates can be calibrated with tree rings, and the calibration curve in this form should soon extend back to 18000 cal BP. Between 12400 and 26000 cal BP, the calibration curves are based on marine records, and thus are only a best estimate of atmospheric concentrations. Beyond 26000 cal BP, dates have to be based on comparison (rather than calibration) with a variety of records. Radical variations are thus possible in this period, a highly significant caveat for the dating of middle and lower Paleolithic art, artefacts and animal and human remains.
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