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Archaeology/Carbon Dating



I have some questions about Carbon Dating. My questions are inline:-

First of all, I would like to know that is there such a thing as a Median Date when it comes to calibrating the date range?

Secondly, I would like to know that are the later dates more reliable for paleography analysis?

Thirdly, I want to know that what is the importance of 1 Sigma and 2 Sigma variances in carbon dating? Is it possible to calibrate our dates without them?


Hi Den,

1). A median date is based on several dates from a given feature.  This is because trees being long lived may have a very broad date range as would its charcoal.  In such cases it is the most recent date that is preferred but a median is provided as the older potential date.

2). An older date could be used but a midian date may make more sense.

3).  Since carbon 14 in the atmosphere varies year over year the calibration can be a bit fuzzy the older the sample.  Thus understanding the full scope of the potential age range could be important.  Thus 1st, 2nd and 3rd sigma may play an important part.


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Ralph Salier


Archaeologist for the last 30 years. Norh American generalist and Hopwell culture/Red Ocher culture specifically. Lithics Expert and Ground Stone tools.


Past/Present clients
Numerous museums in US and Canada. Several University Anthropology Departments.

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