Method of fractionation dating
The extreme measurements included one with a maximum age of under 4,400 years, and another with a minimum age of over 4,500 years.It is also possible for laboratories to have systematic errors, caused by weaknesses in their methodologies.For example, if 1% of the benzene in a modern reference sample is allowed to evaporate, scintillation counting will give a radiocarbon age that is too young by about 80 years.Laboratories work to detect these errors both by testing their own procedures, and by periodic inter-laboratory comparisons of a variety of different samples; any laboratories whose results differ from the consensus radiocarbon age by too great an amount may be suffering from systematic errors.
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It should also incorporate errors on every measurement taken as part of the dating method, including, for example, the δ13C term for the sample, or any laboratory conditions being corrected for such as temperature or voltage.
These errors should then be mathematically combined to give an overall term for the error in the reported age, but in practice laboratories differ, not only in the terms they choose to include in their error calculations, but also in the way they combine errors.
In 1970, the British Museum radiocarbon laboratory ran weekly measurements on the same sample for six months.
The results varied widely (though consistently with a normal distribution of errors in the measurements), and included multiple date ranges (of 1σ confidence) that did not overlap with each other.Different labs use this data in different ways; some simply average the values, while others consider the measurements made on the standard target as a series, and interpolate the readings that would have been measured during the sample run, if the standard had been measured at that time instead.