Carbon dating human fossils
Nonradioactive carbon is now flooding the atmosphere, which creates a dilution effect.
It describes how fossil fuel emissions will make radiocarbon dating, used to identify archaeological finds, poached ivory or even human corpses, less reliable.
“These hominins are on the fringes of the world at that time,” says archaeologist Michael Petraglia of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany.
Back in 1961, miners searching for the mineral barite stumbled on a stunningly complete fossil skull at Jebel Irhoud, 75 kilometers from Morocco’s west coast.
A T-shirt made in 2050 could look exactly like one worn by William the Conqueror a thousand years earlier to someone using radiocarbon dating if emissions continue under a business-as-usual scenario.
By 2100, a dead plant could be almost identical to the Dead Sea scrolls, which are more than 2,000 years old.