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This carbon – which has an atomic mass of 14 – has a chance of losing that neutron to turn into a garden variety carbon isotope over a predictable amount of time.By comparing the two categories of carbon in organic remains, archaeologists can judge how recently the organism that left them last absorbed carbon-14 out of its environment.The main surviving kinglists from ancient Egypt beside the 'Palermo Stone' are hieroglyphic inscriptions of Thutmose III (Karnak, probably a list of statues displaced in temple construction), Sety I and Ramses II (both at Abydos), and a fragmentary hieratic manuscript from Thebes (Turin Canon).

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One controversial example is the dating of a single layer of archaeology at the Bronze and Iron Age city buried at Tel Rehov.

Just a few decades of difference could help resolve an ongoing debate over the extent of Solomon's biblical kingdom, making findings like these more than a minor quibble in a politically contested part of the world."Our work indicates that it's arguable their fundamental basis is faulty – they are using a calibration curve that is not accurate for this region," says Manning.

The difference most likely comes down to changes in regional climates, such as warming conditions.

Extrapolating the findings back to earlier periods, archaeologists attempting to pinpoint Iron Age or Biblical events down to a few years would no doubt have a serious need to question their calibrations.

If we knew the precise length of reign for every Egyptian king, chronology would be no problem.

However, we do not even know the number of kings for all periods, and there is also the possibility that reigns overlapped by coregency or in times of political disunity.One of the most important dating tools used in archaeology may sometimes give misleading data, new study shows - and it could change whole historical timelines as a result.The discrepancy is due to significant fluctuations in the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere, and it could force scientists to rethink how they use ancient organic remains to measure the passing of time.A comparison of radiocarbon ages across the Northern Hemisphere suggests we might have been a little too hasty in assuming how the isotope - also known as radiocarbon - diffuses, potentially shaking up controversial conversations on the timing of events in history.By measuring the amount of carbon-14 in the annual growth rings of trees grown in southern Jordan, researchers have found some dating calculations on events in the Middle East – or, more accurately, the Levant – could be out by nearly 20 years.Over millennia the level of carbon-14 in the atmosphere changes, meaning measurements need to be calibrated against a chart that takes the atmospheric concentration into account, such as INTCAL13.

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