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Other high profile projects include the dating of the Turin Shroud to the medieval period, the dating of the Dead Sea Scrolls to around the time of Christ, and the somewhat controversial dating of the spectacular rock art at Chauvet Cave to c.38,000 cal BP (c.32,000 BP) – thousands of years earlier than expected.
Radiocarbon dating has also been used to date the extinction of the woolly mammoth and contributed to the debate over whether modern humans and Neanderthals met.
Some of the first radiocarbon dates produced showed that the Scottish tombs were thousands of years older than those in Greece.
The barbarians of the north were capable of designing complex structures similar to those in the classical world.
Radioactive decay can be used as a “clock” because it is unaffected by physical (e.g. For instance, the amount varies according to how many cosmic rays reach Earth.
This is affected by solar activity and the earth’s magnetic field.
Tree rings can be counted and their radiocarbon content measured.
Radiocarbon dates are presented in two ways because of this complication.
The uncalibrated date is given with the unit BP (radiocarbon years before 1950).
In this way large domed tombs (known as tholos or beehive tombs) in Greece were thought to predate similar structures in the Scottish Island of Maeshowe.
This supported the idea that the classical worlds of Greece and Rome were at the centre of all innovations.