If carbon dating wrong
Their study could force a reappraisal of when certain events occurred, notably in the period when modern humans lived alongside Neanderthals in Europe.
It suggests that modern humans might have lived in Europe for longer than thought and that prehistoric paintings recently found in the Chauvet cave, in southern France, might be 38,000-years-old rather than the estimated 33,000 years.
Since the 1940s, scientists have used carbon dating to determine the age of fossils, identify vintages of wine and whiskey, and explore other organic artifacts like wood and ivory.
The technique involves comparing the level of one kind of carbon atom—one that decays over time—with the level of another, more stable kind of carbon atom.
Living organisms and some geological features absorb stable carbon-12 and radioactive carbon-14, which are present in the air in a well-known ratio.
This is part of the carbon cycle - the recirculation of carbon through the oceans, atmosphere, plants and animals.
So if scientists believe that a creature lived millions of years ago, then they would need to date it another way. They assume dinosaurs lived millions of years ago (instead of thousands of years ago like the bible says).
These findings suggested dramatic changes in the amount of radioactive carbon in Earth's atmosphere during the last Ice Age, much greater than previously thought, probably as a result of changes in the strength of the planet's magnetic field."Beyond about 20,000 years ago there are some dramatic swings in radiocarbon concentration, which means the age offset between the radiocarbon age and true calendar age can be up to 8,000 years," said Dr David Richards of the School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, who made the study with colleagues in Arizona and Minnesota.The approach was a sensation when it was introduced.The chemist who developed carbon dating, Willard Libby, won the Nobel Prize for his work.“Seldom has a single discovery in chemistry had such an impact on the thinking in so many fields of human endeavour,” one of Libby's colleagues wrote at the time, according to the Nobel Foundation.Today, carbon dating is used so widely as to be taken for granted.