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Implications of a European radiocarbon calibration

  • J. R. Pilcher and M. G. L. Baillie

Clark (1975) gave a clear account to ANTIQUITY readers of the current state of the radiocarbon calibration problem. It is now 19 years since De Vries demonstrated that one of the primary assumptions of the radiocarbon dating method was in error. Since then more than 1,200 measurements have been made on samples of known-age wood and over 70 papers published on this topic (reviewed by Bermingham and Renfrew, 1972 and by Clark, 1975). In spite of this activity, at the recent radiocarbon conference in Los Angeles and La Jolla no international agreement could be reached on a single calibration or correction that could be used to convert radiocarbon measurements to calendar ages. The problems of calibration have undermined the confidence of many European archaeologists in radiocarbon dating-one hears remarks such as ‘one can’t take the dates seriously, after all they are only radiocarbon dates’. Workers attempting to reconcile calibrated radiocarbon dates with historically based chronologies have found that the agreements do not live up to their expectations based on the quoted standard deviations of the dates. In the short term the results we present here may further convince the archaeologist that radiocarbon dates will not solve his chronological problems. However, we hope to demonstrate that radiocarbon dating is ultimately capable of sufficient accuracy to be fully compatible with historical chronologies

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  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquity
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