Process of radiocarbon dating
The historians of one hundred years ago could only dream of such a wonderful, albeit frightening atomic clock ticking away, helping to mark the passing of the years and the ages of man.
No scientific technique is perfect, despite sometimes obsequious media coverage of their capabilities.
However, a number of things can easily go wrong during this stage of the process and the labs that calculate radiocarbon dates are subject to constant scrutiny to ensure that they are up to par; but even so, samples sent to different labs often produce slightly various results. These are established by a variety of elements, including but not limited to: the quality of the sample, the quality of the lab, and the age of the sample.
Such was the case at these three sites, where wooden and pollen elements could be dated, providing a speculative chronology for the sites as a whole, but even these are subject to error and constant scrutiny by the academic community.
Among other scholarly scientific suppositions, it assumes that the amount of carbon fourteen in the atmosphere has remained constant bar minor recent fluctuations due to the industrialization of the past few centuries and our impact on the environment.
And also, rather importantly, the laws of radioactive decay hypothesize that once a living organism is dead, it no longer interacts with anything in its environment which would affect the speed of its radioactive decay.
The dates given for Rapa Nui attract particular debate as they have been used to establish the time of the migration to the island.
With carbon dating the type of sample and the placement of it within the site are very important.