The best possible time resolution: How precise could a radiocarbon dating method be?

I. Svetlik, A. J.T. Jull, M. Molnár, P. P. Povinec, T. Kolář, P. Demján, K. Pachnerova Brabcova, V. Brychova, D. Dreslerová, M. Rybníček, P. Simek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Today, accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) technology enables us to carry out very precise measurements of radiocarbon (14C). Unfortunately, due to fluctuations in the 14C calibration curve, the resulting calibrated time intervals vary from decades up to centuries in calibrated age. Within a time scale of several decades, we can find several time intervals on the 14C calibration curve which correspond with periods of rapid increases in atmospheric 14CO2 activity. Some of these “high slope” parts of the calibration curve could be used for fine time resolution for radiocarbon dating of individual samples. Nevertheless, there are certain limitations owing to the properties of the samples measured. We have prepared a time-resolution curve for the 14C dating method, applying calibration curve IntCal13 and assuming an uncertainty of 14C analyses ±15 yr BP (for recent samples). Our curve of the time resolution covers the last 50 ka. We found several time intervals with time resolution below 50 yr BP for the last 3 ka. Several time intervals which can enable substantially better time resolution compared to neighboring parts of the calibration curve were also found for periods older than 3 ka.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1729-1740
Number of pages12
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2019


  • Curve of time resolution
  • IntCal13
  • Radiocarbon dating
  • Tree rings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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