Organisms capture a certain amount of carbon-14 from the atmosphere when they are alive.
It has been suggested that the great success of (super 14) C was an important factor in redirecting the focus of American archaeological scholarship in the 1960s from chronology building to theory building, led to a noticeable improvement in US archaeological field methods, and provided a major catalyst that moved American archaeologists increasingly to direct attention to analytical and statistical approaches in the manipulation and evaluation of archaeological data.
Climate records from a Japanese lake are set to improve the accuracy of the dating technique, which could help to shed light on archaeological mysteries such as why Neanderthals became extinct.
In particular, there is now an overriding imperative to increase the levels of precision by which events during this period can be dated and correlated.
When introduced almost five decades ago, radiocarbon ( (super 14) C) dating provided New World archaeologists with a common chronometric scale that transcended the countless site-specific and regional schemes that had been developed by four generations of field researchers employing a wide array of criteria for distinguishing relative chronological phases.
“What we really want to get to [are] these more contemporary, current killings.”Part of the problem is that while demand for ivory in Europe and North America has dropped, markets in increasingly prosperous countries in Southeast Asia — such as China, Vietnam and the Philippines — have been growing.”When their economy improved, it became a desirable object,” Cerling said.
Educating potential consumers in that part of the world is key, he added, as is working with courts to ensure that they mete out severe sentences for breaking national and international poaching laws.“We’ve got a lot to do,” Cerling said.
Elephant poaching is alive and well — and the elephants are not.
A team of scientists examining seized shipments of elephant ivory from Africa have found that the vast majority came from elephants that died within the last three years.
That means the focus needs to remain on current poaching, not on keeping old ivory off the market, Wittemyer said.
“It’s not something that we really want to spend a huge amount of effort monitoring,” he said.
But that assumes that the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere was constant — any variation would speed up or slow down the clock.