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The problem, says Bronk Ramsey, is that tree rings provide a direct record that only goes as far back as about 14,000 years.

Marine records, such as corals, have been used to push farther back in time, but these are less robust because levels of carbon-14 in the atmosphere and the ocean are not identical and tend shift with changes in ocean circulation.

Carbon dating is used to work out the age of organic material — in effect, any living thing.

The technique hinges on carbon-14, a radioactive isotope of the element that, unlike other more stable forms of carbon, decays away at a steady rate.

Organisms capture a certain amount of carbon-14 from the atmosphere when they are alive.

By measuring the ratio of the radio isotope to non-radioactive carbon, the amount of carbon-14 decay can be worked out, thereby giving an age for the specimen in question.

The recalibrated clock won’t force archaeologists to abandon old measurements wholesale, says Bronk Ramsey, but it could help to narrow the window of key events in human history.

“If you’re trying to look at archaeological sites at the order of 30,000 or 40,000 years ago, the ages may shift by only a few hundred years but that may be significant in putting them before or after changes in climate,” he says.

Archaeologists vehemently disagree over the effects changing climate and competition from recently arriving humans had on the Neanderthals' demise.— Researchers have demonstrated a new compact spectroscopic instrument that offers a highly sensitive optical method for detecting radiocarbon dioxide concentration, which can be used to carbon date ...A team of scientists has shown for the first time that nicotine residue can be extracted from dental plaque on the teeth of ancient tobacco users.Bronk Ramsey’s team aimed to fill this gap by using sediment from bed of Lake Suigetsu, west of Tokyo.Two distinct sediment layers have formed in the lake every summer and winter over tens of thousands of years.

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