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Between 1968 and 1984, a 7272-yr oak chronology was constructed in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in order to provide a local calibration of the radiocarbon timescale. This single-minded exercise in chronology construction provided an exciting occupation for a group of researchers that can be likened to a race in which there was no guarantee of a finish. The existence of a parallel dendrochronological enterprise in Germany added both competition and the possibility of independent replication. The initial completion of both chronologies by 1984, and respective calibrations by 1986, left an important legacy of 2 absolutely dated tree-ring chronologies for multifarious research purposes.
It is well known that radiocarbon years do not directly equate to calendar time. As a result, considerable effort has been devoted to generating a decadally resolved calibration curve for the Holocene and latter part of the last termination. A calibration curve that can be unambiguously attributed to changes in atmospheric 14C content has not, however, been generated beyond 26 kyr cal BP, despite the urgent need to rigorously test climatic, environmental, and archaeological models. Here, we discuss the potential of New Zealand kauri (Agathis australis) to define the structure of the 14C calibration curve using annually resolved tree rings and thereby provide an absolute measure of atmospheric 14C. We report bidecadally sampled 14C measurements obtained from a floating 1050-yr chronology, demonstrating repeatable 14C measurements near the present limits of the dating method. The results indicate that considerable scope exists for a high-resolution 14C calibration curve back through OIS-3 using subfossil wood from this source.
New radiocarbon calibration curves, IntCal04 and Marine04, have been constructed and internationally ratified to replace the terrestrial and marine components of IntCal98. The new calibration data sets extend an additional 2000 yr, from 0–26 cal kyr BP (Before Present, 0 cal BP = AD 1950), and provide much higher resolution, greater precision, and more detailed structure than IntCal98. For the Marine04 curve, dendrochronologically-dated tree-ring samples, converted with a box diffusion model to marine mixed-layer ages, cover the period from 0–10.5 cal kyr BP. Beyond 10.5 cal kyr BP, high-resolution marine data become available from foraminifera in varved sediments and U/Th-dated corals. The marine records are corrected with site-specific 14C reservoir age information to provide a single global marine mixed-layer calibration from 10.5–26.0 cal kyr BP. A substantial enhancement relative to IntCal98 is the introduction of a random walk model, which takes into account the uncertainty in both the calendar age and the 14C age to calculate the underlying calibration curve (Buck and Blackwell, this issue). The marine data sets and calibration curve for marine samples from the surface mixed layer (Marine04) are discussed here. The tree-ring data sets, sources of uncertainty, and regional offsets are presented in detail in a companion paper by Reimer et al. (this issue).
The first meeting of the IntCal04 working group took place at Queen's University Belfast from April 15 to 17, 2002. The participants are listed as co-authors of this report. The meeting considered criteria for the acceptance of data into the next official calibration dataset, the importance of including reliable estimates of uncertainty in both the radiocarbon ages and the cal ages, and potential methods for combining datasets. This preliminary report summarizes the criteria that were discussed, but does not yet give specific recommendations for inclusion or exclusion of individual datasets.
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