Data, formulae or compututation: what limits radiocarbon calibration?
Dr. Andrew Millard
Department of Archaeology
University of Durham, South Rd, Durham DH1 3LE
The calibration of radiocarbon dates is producing more and more precise age estimates, but how good are they and what limits their accuracy? There are three main components of the calibration process, given data on samples: the calibration data points, the mathematical model used and the actual calculations. This paper will examine the three components in turn in order to answer the question of the title. It turns out that the data points aren't strictly data, but are already mathematically modelled, and the mathematical model doesn't take account of this. Only when these are resolved is it worth improving the computation.