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Bronk Ramsey’s team aimed to fill this gap by using sediment from bed of Lake Suigetsu, west of Tokyo.Two distinct sediment layers have formed in the lake every summer and winter over tens of thousands of years.Take the extinction of Neanderthals, which occurred in western Europe less than 30,000 years ago.Archaeologists vehemently disagree over the effects changing climate and competition from recently arriving humans had on the Neanderthals' demise.The more accurate carbon clock should yield better dates for any overlap of humans and Neanderthals, as well as for determining how climate changes influenced the extinction of Neanderthals.

Radioactive decay occurs at a constant rate, specific to each radioactive isotope.The recalibrated clock won’t force archaeologists to abandon old measurements wholesale, says Bronk Ramsey, but it could help to narrow the window of key events in human history.“If you’re trying to look at archaeological sites at the order of 30,000 or 40,000 years ago, the ages may shift by only a few hundred years but that may be significant in putting them before or after changes in climate,” he says.But that assumes that the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere was constant — any variation would speed up or slow down the clock.The clock was initially calibrated by dating objects of known age such as Egyptian mummies and bread from Pompeii; work that won Willard Libby the 1960 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

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