Photograph dating

13 Feb

Thus radiocarbon serves biblical chronology mainly by helping to eliminate large-scale biblical chronology errors arising out of misinterpretation of the biblical text or textual corruption.

(For a good example of the role radiocarbon plays in biblical chronology see Is Bryant Wood's chronology of Jericho valid? Once such large-scale errors have been eliminated the precision of biblical chronology rivals that of dendrochronology. Radiocarbon is not generally useful for narrowing the range of such biblical chronology dates further because radiocarbon tends to have poorer precision than biblical chronology.

Radiocarbon dates are certainly not precise to within a year or two, but they are generally precise to within a few hundred years or better.

This means radiocarbon's precision is generally sufficient to choose between alternate chronologies which differ by a hundred years or more.

This, in fact, is the most significant factor contributing to loss of precision in radiocarbon dates today.

However, this contribution is usually only a few decades.

Older samples have a lower concentration of radiocarbon, but they can be (and often are) counted for longer periods of time to compensate for this lower concentration.

There are two main factors which determine the precision of a radiocarbon date.Modern radiocarbon dating uses tree-ring chronologies to produce the calibration curve.Because the radiocarbon to stable carbon ratio in the atmosphere has fluctuated over time, there are "wiggles" in the calibration curve.Modern accelerator mass spectrometry (used for radiocarbon dating purposes to separate radiocarbon atoms from stable carbon atoms and count them) is quite precise.The technology involved is fascinating and impressive.