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The other major factor affecting the results of carbon dating is gauging the original proportion of carbon-14 itself.Carbon dating is based on the loss of carbon-14, so, even if the present amount in a specimen can be detected accurately, we must still know how much carbon-14 the organism started with.If the spear head is dated using animal bones nearby, the accuracy of the results is entirely dependent on the assumed link between the spear head and the animal.This is perhaps the greatest point of potential error, as assumptions about dating can lead to circular reasoning, or choosing confirming results, rather than accepting a “wrong” date.When an organism dies, it stops taking in new carbon-14, and whatever is inside gradually decays into other elements.Carbon-14 normally makes up about 1 trillionth (1/1,000,000,000,000) of the earth’s atmosphere.Tiny variations within a particular sample become significant enough to skew results to the point of absurdity.

Nor can it tell if a much older spearhead was attached to a brand-new shaft.

Several factors affect radiocarbon test results, not all of which are easy to control objectively.

For this reason, it’s preferable to date objects using multiple methods, rather than relying on one single test.

So even brand-new samples contain incredibly tiny quantities of radiocarbon.

Eventually, the amount of carbon-14 remaining is so small that it’s all but undetectable.

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