For years, the standard way to date ancient organic items for history was to use radiocarbon dating. It has been an important dating tool available to scientists and archaeologists who deal with organic matter regularly and are often required to date these items accurately to place them within context and timelines.
Also called carbon dating or carbon-14 dating, this method involves isolating the radioactive carbon within organic matter to determine the age of it. By locating the radioactive isotope carbon-14 in organic matter, scientists could determine the age of an item. Every living thing continues to exchange carbon while it is alive. However, once something dies, be it flora or fauna, the collection of carbon ceases. Therefore, radiocarbon dating is used to measure when this occurred in order to date an item.
This method of dating is considered extremely accurate and stable up to items that are about 60,000 years old. It is also considered a universal way of measuring an age or timeline, regardless of where in the world an item has been found and has been in use since the mid-20th century according to Laboratory Equipment.
Now, however, new research has shown that this method of dating organic matter may not be as reliable and accurate as first expected. According to an article in Archaeology, “a team led by dendrochronologist Sturt Manning of Cornell University has found that the traditional carbon-14 calibration curve for the Northern Hemisphere produces inaccurate dates for organic materials in southern Jordan, Israel, and Egypt.”
The inaccuracy was discovered after an analysis was made by comparing Jordanian juniper trees that grew between roughly 1600 and 1910 A.D. It was discovered that, by counting the tree rings, and comparing them to standard radiocarbon dating, a discrepancy of approximately 19 years was discovered, according to Laboratory Equipment.
This means that while radiocarbon dating is considered accurate for most of the world, in the areas indicated, the dating method could be out by about 19 years. The assumption is that a change in “climate conditions, and what time of year plants grow in different parts of each of the two hemispheres,” could account for the inaccuracy.
Considering this discrepancy to the timeline occurs in the Holy Land, the new study now suggests that it could mean doubt is cast now on some current scholarship looking into ancient sacred texts of that era and how they now tie up, time-wise, with each other. Sturt Manning suggests that items carbon dated, such as the Bible and the Torah, using this method might now be considered somewhat inaccurate.
“There has been much debate for several decades among scholars arguing for different chronologies sometimes only decades to a century apart, each with major historical implications. And yet these studies… may all be inaccurate since they are using the wrong radiocarbon information.”
The difference is only a small amount, considering the age of some items being dated. For researchers, however, when there has been a discrepancy of timelines of only a decade or so, this new radiocarbon dating issue now might make the world of difference to their work.