Czech Archaeological Radiocarbon Database

Radiocarbon Dating Resolution Calculator

Calculate expected temporal resolution of radiocarbon dating based on the expected actual age of the samples.

Enter sample age (in years AD, use negative values for BC):

Link to Result

Example Use:

Let's say we want to know the expected dating resolution for samples with an actual age around 1000 BC. Here's how we can do it:

  1. Enter Age Range: In the "Enter sample age" section, input -1050 as the minimum value and -950 as the maximum value. These correspond to 1050 BC and 950 BC.
  2. Plot the Data: Click the "Plot" button.

Understanding the Results:

  • The resulting graph will show the resolution of radiocarbon dating for this age range.
  • The grey shaded area represents the 90% confidence interval, indicating the range within which we can expect most of our dates to fall.
  • The black line represents the mean resolution.

Interpreting the Data:

For the given age range (1050-950 BC), the graph shows that the dating uncertainty ranges (2-sigma or 95.45% confidence interval) vary between approximately 100 and 190 years.

Statistically (according to a binomial probability model), if we were to date 20 samples from this period, we can expect 18 of them to have a dating uncertainty range of 190 years or less. To have a 90% chance of obtaining at least one sample with a range of 100 years or less, we need to date at least 22 samples.

In general, 18 out of 20 dated samples will have a dating uncertainty range at the upper bound of the 90% confidence interval, and to have a 90% chance of obtaining at least one sample with a range at the lower bound, we would need to date at least 22 samples.

Project home: (Python script used to generate the data as well as the full open source code).

For an overview of the method see: Svetlik et al. (2019) DOI: 10.1017/RDC.2019.134.

The expected measurement uncertainty for 0 BP is ±15 radiocarbon years. This value grows exponentially depending on the age of the sample (see Svetlik et al. 2019 for the exact formula).

Radiocarbon dates are calibrated using atmospheric data from the IntCal20 dataset by: Reimer et al. (2016) DOI: 10.2458/azu_js_rc.55.16947

Ranges using different measurement uncertainty values or calibration curves can be calculated using a Python script. See the Res14C GitHub repository for details.

Development of the Radiocarbon Dating Resolution Calculator software was supported by project OP JAC "Ready for the future: understanding long-term resilience of the human culture (RES-HUM)", Reg. No. CZ.02.01.01/00/22_008/0004593 of the MEYS CR and EU.