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Calendar years versus Radiocarbon Years
The initials BP or bp and rarely B. While BP is also used generally as an imprecise estimate of an age of an object or event, the use of it in science was made necessary by the quirks of the radiocarbon methodology. Radiocarbon dating was invented in the late 's, and within a few decades, it was discovered that while the dates retrieved from the method have a sound, repeatable progression, they are not a one-to-one match with calendar years. Most importantly, researchers discovered that radiocarbon dates are affected by the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, which has fluctuated greatly in the past for both natural and human-caused reasons such as the invention of iron smelting , the Industrial Revolution , and the invention of the combustion engine.
Willard Libby and Radiocarbon Dating
Radiocarbon dating is one of the best known archaeological dating techniques available to scientists, and the many people in the general public have at least heard of it. But there are many misconceptions about how radiocarbon works and how reliable a technique it is. Radiocarbon dating was invented in the s by the American chemist Willard F. Libby and a few of his students at the University of Chicago: in , he won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the invention. It was the first absolute scientific method ever invented: that is to say, the technique was the first to allow a researcher to determine how long ago an organic object died, whether it is in context or not.
Radiocarbon dating measurements produce ages in "radiocarbon years", which must be converted to calendar ages by a process called calibration. Willard Libby , the inventor of radiocarbon dating, pointed out as early as the possibility that the ratio might have varied over time. Discrepancies began to be noted between measured ages and known historical dates for artefacts, and it became clear that a correction would need to be applied to radiocarbon ages to obtain calendar dates. The term Before Present BP is established for reporting dates derived from radiocarbon analysis, where "present" is