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So basically 10 half-lives is the limit of any radioisotopic dating method.So when you get down to 30,000 years ago, you’ve got about 3% of the amount of radiocarbon that you’ve got in the present day, just 3%.
Radiocarbon dating is a fantastic technique, but when you get down to 30 to 50,000 years ago, you’re dealing with much, much smaller amounts of radiocarbon than you are in the present day.
So what we decided to do was to try and address these issues by a new programme of dating.
This is the radiocarbon accelerator in Oxford, where I work, and it’s a £2.5 million piece of kit that enables you to date really small pieces of bone, really small pieces of charcoal.
We trap most of the collagen above the filter, and this is what we end up radiocarbon dating.
And we started using this in 2001, and we noticed immediately some big differences between dates previous to ultrafiltration and post-ultrafiltration.