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Tiny variations within a particular sample become significant enough to skew results to the point of absurdity.

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Due to all these factors, it’s common for carbon dating results of a particular sample, or even a group of samples, to be rejected for the sole reason that they don’t align with the “expected” results.

That’s not unusual in science, so far as it goes, but the relationship between assumptions and interpretations must be kept in mind. At worst, it can make carbon dating circular and self-confirming, though there are other means of dating that can reduce this risk.

Modern effects such as fossil fuel burning and nuclear testing have also changed atmospheric carbon-14 levels and in turn change the “starting point” for a radiocarbon test.

All in all, setting the parameters of the carbon-14 test is more of an art than a science.

Even then, a large proportion of radiocarbon dating tests return inconsistent, or even incoherent, results, even for tests done on the same sample.

The explanation given for these outliers is usually “contamination.” Inconsistent results are another reason why multiple samples, multiples tests, and various parallel methods are used to date objects.When an organism dies, it stops taking in new carbon-14, and whatever is inside gradually decays into other elements.Carbon-14 normally makes up about 1 trillionth (1/1,000,000,000,000) of the earth’s atmosphere.The other major factor affecting the results of carbon dating is gauging the original proportion of carbon-14 itself.Carbon dating is based on the loss of carbon-14, so, even if the present amount in a specimen can be detected accurately, we must still know how much carbon-14 the organism started with.If the spear head is dated using animal bones nearby, the accuracy of the results is entirely dependent on the assumed link between the spear head and the animal.

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