How far can carbon dating go
The more accurate carbon clock should yield better dates for any overlap of humans and Neanderthals, as well as for determining how climate changes influenced the extinction of Neanderthals.
The technique hinges on carbon-14, a radioactive isotope of the element that, unlike other more stable forms of carbon, decays away at a steady rate.
’s free newsletters."data-newsletterpromo-image="https://static.scientificamerican.com/sciam/cache/file/458BF87F-514B-44EE-B87F5D531772CF83_source.png"data-newsletterpromo-button-text="Sign Up"data-newsletterpromo-button-link="https:// origincode=2018_sciam_Article Promo_Newsletter Sign Up"name="article Body" itemprop="article Body" magazine The carbon clock is getting reset.
Climate records from a Japanese lake are set to improve the accuracy of the dating technique, which could help to shed light on archaeological mysteries such as why Neanderthals became extinct.
Take the extinction of Neanderthals, which occurred in western Europe less than 30,000 years ago.
Archaeologists vehemently disagree over the effects changing climate and competition from recently arriving humans had on the Neanderthals' demise.
Organisms capture a certain amount of carbon-14 from the atmosphere when they are alive.