Geochemistry

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Science  25 Mar 2005:
Vol. 307, Issue 5717, pp. 1841
DOI: 10.1126/science.307.5717.1841b

Radiocarbon dating is the preeminent method for determining the age of carbonaceous materials younger than about 50,000 years. The determination of accurate calendar ages from radiocarbon ages requires a calibration curve, though, because the production of 14C and its distribution between atmospheric, oceanic, and terrestrial carbon reservoirs both vary with time.

Charged with the task of producing the official calibration curve for terrestrial radiocarbon dating, the IntCal working group has just released the latest version, IntCal04. Reimer et al. present this new curve, which replaces the previous version that has been in effect since 1998. IntCal04 extends the calibration backward by 2000 years, to 26,000 calendar years before the present (cal yr B.P., where the present is defined as 1950), increases the resolution of the period earlier than 11,400 cal yr B.P., and considers the uncertainty in both the calendar age and the 14C age in the calibration. Tree ring data contribute the bulk of the ages in the interval between today and 12,400 cal yr B.P., and marine data from corals and foraminifera provide the calibration for samples older than 12,400 years. Associated papers in the same issue describe the details of this impressive and valuable achievement. — HJS

Radiocarbon 46, 1029 (2005).

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