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Nor can it tell if a much older spearhead was attached to a brand-new shaft.Most archaeological items can’t be directly carbon dated, so their dating is based on testing done on nearby objects or materials.For this reason, it’s preferable to date objects using multiple methods, rather than relying on one single test.Carbon dating is reliable within certain parameters but certainly not infallible.This is perhaps the greatest point of potential error, as assumptions about dating can lead to circular reasoning, or choosing confirming results, rather than accepting a “wrong” date.
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This provides good information, but it only indicates how long ago that piece of wood was cut from a living tree.
Radiocarbon dating can’t tell the difference between wood that was cut and immediately used for the spear, and wood that was cut years before being re-used for that purpose.
Carbon dating therefore relies on enrichment and enhancement techniques to make smaller quantities easier to detect, but such enhancement can also skew the test results. As a result, carbon dating is only plausible for objects less than about 40,000 years old.
The other major factor affecting the results of carbon dating is gauging the original proportion of carbon-14 itself.
When testing an object using radiocarbon dating, several factors have to be considered: First, carbon dating only works on matter that was once alive, and it only determines the approximate date of death for that sample.