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‘Wiggle Matching’ Radiocarbon Dates

  • C Bronk Ramsey (a1), J van der Plicht (a2) and B Weninger (a3)

This paper covers three different methods of matching radiocarbon dates to the ‘wiggles’ of the calibration curve in those situations where the age difference between the 14C dates is known. These methods are most often applied to tree-ring sequences. The simplest approach is to use a classical Chi-squared fit of the 14C data to the 14C curve. This gives the calendar date where the data fit best and allows tests of how good the fit is. The only drawback of this method is that it is difficult to ascertain the uncertainty in the date found in this way. An extension of this technique uses a Monte-Carlo simulation to sample possible 14C concentrations consistent with the measurement made and for each of these possibilities performs a Chi-squared fit. This method yields a distribution of values in the calendrical time-scale, from which the overall dating uncertainty can be derived. A third, rather different approach, based on Bayesian statistics, calculates the relative likelihood of each possible calendar year fit. This can then be used to calculate a range of most likely dates in a similar way to the probability method of 14C calibration. The theories underlying all three methods are discussed in this paper and a comparison made for the fitting of specific model sequences. All three methods are found to give consistent results and the application of any one of them depends on the nature of the scientific question being addressed.

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  • ISSN: 0033-8222
  • EISSN: 1945-5755
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