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Preserved leaves in the cores — “they look fresh as if they’ve fallen very recently”, Bronk Ramsey says — yielded 651 carbon dates that could be compared to the calendar dates of the sediment they were found in.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.
The study sites reflected the environmental diversity of the 63-square-mile island situated nearly 2,300 miles off the west coast of Chile.
"The other side says it had nothing to do with cultural behavior, that it was the Europeans who brought disease that killed the Rapa Nui.
Our results show that there is some of both going on, but the important point is that we show evidence of some communities being abandoned prior to European contact." Chadwick joined archaeologists Christopher Stevenson of Virginia Commonwealth University, Cedric Puleston of UC Davis and Thegn Ladefoged of the University of Auckland in examining six agriculture sites used by the island's statue-building inhabitants.
Various geologic, atmospheric and solar processes can influence atmospheric carbon-14 levels.
Since the 1960s, scientists have started accounting for the variations by calibrating the clock against the known ages of tree rings.