Rachel Wood does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.Australian National University provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU.Some of the first radiocarbon dates produced showed that the Scottish tombs were thousands of years older than those in Greece.
If 1% of the carbon in a 50,000 year old sample is from a modern contaminant, the sample will be dated to around 40,000 years.
Because of this, radiocarbon chemists are continually developing new methods to more effectively clean materials.
Luckily, we can measure these fluctuations in samples that are dated by other methods.
Tree rings can be counted and their radiocarbon content measured.
Professor Willard Libby produced the first radiocarbon dates in 1949 and was later awarded the Nobel Prize for his efforts.