Radiometric dating blind test
If the spear head is dated using animal bones nearby, the accuracy of the results is entirely dependent on the assumed link between the spear head and the animal.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.For example, a steel spearhead cannot be carbon dated, so archaeologists might perform testing on the wooden shaft it was attached to.This provides good information, but it only indicates how long ago that piece of wood was cut from a living tree.So even brand-new samples contain incredibly tiny quantities of radiocarbon.Eventually, the amount of carbon-14 remaining is so small that it’s all but undetectable.
All in all, setting the parameters of the carbon-14 test is more of an art than a science.
Second, radiocarbon dating becomes more difficult, and less accurate, as the sample gets older.
The bodies of living things generally have concentrations of the isotope carbon-14, also known as radiocarbon, identical to concentrations in the atmosphere.
Even then, a large proportion of radiocarbon dating tests return inconsistent, or even incoherent, results, even for tests done on the same sample.
The explanation given for these outliers is usually “contamination.” Inconsistent results are another reason why multiple samples, multiples tests, and various parallel methods are used to date objects.
Contamination and repeatability are also factors that have to be considered with carbon dating.