Moving away from techniques, the most exciting thing about radiocarbon is what it reveals about our past and the world we live in.Radiocarbon dating was the first method that allowed archaeologists to place what they found in chronological order without the need for written records or coins.If 1% of the carbon in a 50,000 year old sample is from a modern contaminant, the sample will be dated to around 40,000 years.Because of this, radiocarbon chemists are continually developing new methods to more effectively clean materials.
A huge amount of work is currently underway to extend and improve the calibration curve.
These new techniques can have a dramatic effect on chronologies.
With the development of a new method of cleaning charcoal called ABOx-SC, Michael Bird helped to push back the date of arrival of the first humans in Australia by more than 10,000 years.
This method requires less than 1g of bone, but few countries can afford more than one or two AMSs, which cost more than A0,000.
Australia has two machines dedicated to radiocarbon analysis, and they are out of reach for much of the developing world.