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The IntCal family of radiocarbon (14C) calibration curves is based on research spanning more than three decades. The IntCal group have collated the 14C and calendar age data (mostly derived from primary publications with other types of data and meta-data) and, since 2010, made them available for other sorts of analysis through an open-access database. This has ensured transparency in terms of the data used in the construction of the ratified calibration curves. As the IntCal database expands, work is underway to facilitate best practice for new data submissions, make more of the associated metadata available in a structured form, and help those wishing to process the data with programming languages such as R, Python, and MATLAB. The data and metadata are complex because of the range of different types of archives. A restructured interface, based on the “IntChron” open-access data model, includes tools which allow the data to be plotted and compared without the need for export. The intention is to include complementary information which can be used alongside the main 14C series to provide new insights into the global carbon cycle, as well as facilitating access to the data for other research applications. Overall, this work aims to streamline the generation of new calibration curves.
We here present a comparison of methods for the pretreatment of a batch of tree rings for high-precision measurement of radiocarbon at the Aarhus AMS Centre (AARAMS), Aarhus University, Denmark. The aim was to develop an efficient and high-throughput method able to pretreat ca. 50 samples at a time. We tested two methods for extracting α-cellulose from wood to find the most optimal for our use. One method used acetic acid, the other used HCl acid for the delignification. The testing was conducted on background 14C samples, in order to assess the effect of the different pretreatment methods on low-activity samples. Furthermore, the extracted wood and cellulose fractions were analyzed using Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, which showed a successful extraction of α-cellulose from the samples. Cellulose samples were pretreated at AARAMS, and the graphitization and radiocarbon analysis of these samples were done at both AARAMS and the radiocarbon dating laboratory at Lund University to compare the graphitization and AMS machine performance. No significant offset was found between the two sets of measurements. Based on these tests, the pretreatment of tree rings for high-precision radiocarbon analysis at AARAMS will henceforth use HCI for the delignification.
Radiocarbon (14C) ages cannot provide absolutely dated chronologies for archaeological or paleoenvironmental studies directly but must be converted to calendar age equivalents using a calibration curve compensating for fluctuations in atmospheric 14C concentration. Although calibration curves are constructed from independently dated archives, they invariably require revision as new data become available and our understanding of the Earth system improves. In this volume the international 14C calibration curves for both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, as well as for the ocean surface layer, have been updated to include a wealth of new data and extended to 55,000 cal BP. Based on tree rings, IntCal20 now extends as a fully atmospheric record to ca. 13,900 cal BP. For the older part of the timescale, IntCal20 comprises statistically integrated evidence from floating tree-ring chronologies, lacustrine and marine sediments, speleothems, and corals. We utilized improved evaluation of the timescales and location variable 14C offsets from the atmosphere (reservoir age, dead carbon fraction) for each dataset. New statistical methods have refined the structure of the calibration curves while maintaining a robust treatment of uncertainties in the 14C ages, the calendar ages and other corrections. The inclusion of modeled marine reservoir ages derived from a three-dimensional ocean circulation model has allowed us to apply more appropriate reservoir corrections to the marine 14C data rather than the previous use of constant regional offsets from the atmosphere. Here we provide an overview of the new and revised datasets and the associated methods used for the construction of the IntCal20 curve and explore potential regional offsets for tree-ring data. We discuss the main differences with respect to the previous calibration curve, IntCal13, and some of the implications for archaeology and geosciences ranging from the recent past to the time of the extinction of the Neanderthals.
Connecting calendar ages to radiocarbon (14C) ages, i.e. constructing a calibration curve, requires 14C samples that represent, or are closely connected to, atmospheric 14C values and that can also be independently dated. In addition to these data, there is information that can serve as independent tests of the calibration curve. For example, information from ice core radionuclide data cannot be directly incorporated into the calibration curve construction as it delivers less direct information on the 14C age–calendar age relationship but it can provide tests of the quality of the calibration curve. Furthermore, ice core ages on 14C-dated volcanic eruptions provide key information on the agreement of ice core and radiocarbon time scales. Due to their scarcity such data would have little impact if directly incorporated into the calibration curve. However, these serve as important “anchor points” in time for independently testing the calibration curve and/or ice-core time scales. Here we will show that such information largely supports the new IntCal20 calibration record. Furthermore, we discuss how floating tree-ring sequences on ice-core time scales agree with the new calibration curve. For the period around 40,000 years ago we discuss unresolved differences between ice core 10Be and 14C records that are possibly related to our limited understanding of carbon cycle influences on the atmospheric 14C concentration during the last glacial period. Finally, we review the results on the time scale comparison between the Greenland ice-core time scale (GICC05) and IntCal20 that effectively allow a direct comparison of 14C-dated records with the Greenland ice core data.
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