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Though one of the most essential tools for determining an ancient object’s age, carbon dating might not be as accurate as we once thought.The answer to the problem of fluctuating amounts of this important isotope is calibration.While an uncalibrated reading may be off by a factor of 10%-20%, calibration severely reduces that value.If an archaeologist wanted to date a dead tree to see when humans used it to build tools, their readings would be significantly thrown off.This is because radiocarbon dating gives the date when the tree ceased its intake of Carbon-14—not when it was being used for weapons and other instruments!
Though the calibrated date is more precise, many scholars still use the uncalibrated date in order to keep chronologies consistent in academic communities.