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Radiocarbon dating is one of the best known archaeological dating techniques available to scientists, and the many people in the general public have at least heard of it.
But there are many misconceptions about how radiocarbon works and how reliable a technique it is.
If it was on a scale of 60,000 years, then we could be 3-10 years off, and if was on the scale of 6 hours ago, we could be 3-5 minutes off.
Though this has its disadvantages, it also is an extreme breakthrough in science to merge into the past without going there.
Since that time, CALIB, now renamed Int Cal, has been refined several times--as of this writing (January 2017), the program is now called Int Cal13.
Int Cal combines and reinforces data from tree-rings, ice-cores, tephra, corals, and speleothems to come up with a significantly improved calibration set for c14 dates between 12,000 and 50,000 years ago.
Within the last few years, a new potential source for further refining radiocarbon curves is Lake Suigetsu in Japan.
Beginning in the 1990s, a coalition of researchers led by Paula J.
Reimer of the CHRONO Centre for Climate, the Environment and Chronology, at Queen's University Belfast, began building an extensive dataset and calibration tool that they first called CALIB.
All living things exchange the gas Carbon 14 (C14) with the atmosphere around them—animals and plants exchange Carbon 14 with the atmosphere, fish and corals exchange carbon with dissolved C14 in the water.
Throughout the life of an animal or plant, the amount of C14 is perfectly balanced with that of its surroundings. The C14 in a dead organism slowly decays at a known rate: its "half life".