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Calibration is not only done before an analysis but also on analytical results as in the case of radiocarbon dating—an analytical method that identifies the age of a material that once formed part of the biosphere by determining its carbon-14 content and tracing its age by its radioactive decay.

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These changes were brought about by several factors including, but not limited to, fluctuations in the earth’s geomagnetic moment, fossil fuel burning, and nuclear testing.

The most popular and often used method for calibration is by dendrochronology.

In later years, the use of accelerator mass spectrometers and the introduction of high-precision carbon dating have also generated calibration curves.

A high-precision radiocarbon calibration curve published by a laboratory in Belfast, Northern Ireland, used dendrochronology data based on the Irish oak.

Libraries of tree rings of different calendar ages are now available to provide records extending back over the last 11,000 years.

The trees often used as references are the bristlecone pine (Pinus aristata) found in the USA and waterlogged Oak (Quercus sp.) in Ireland and Germany.

It is also worth noting that the half-life used in carbon dating calculations is 5568 years, the value worked out by chemist Willard Libby, and not the more accurate value of 5730 years, which is known as the Cambridge half-life.

Although it is less accurate, the Libby half-life was retained to avoid inconsistencies or errors when comparing carbon-14 test results that were produced before and after the Cambridge half-life was derived.

Nowadays, the internationally agreed upon calendar calibration curves reach as far back as about 48000 BC (Reimer et.

al., INTCAL13 and Marine13 radiocarbon age calibration curves 0 – 50000 yrs cal BP, Radiocarbon 55(4), 2013).

They can determine the exact calendar year each tree ring was formed.

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