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Likewise, different living things absorb or reject carbon-14 at different rates.
A tiny amount of carbon contamination will greatly skew test results, so sample preparation is critical.
Most archaeological items can’t be directly carbon dated, so their dating is based on testing done on nearby objects or materials.
This makes the results subject to the researchers’ assumptions about those objects.
As samples get older, errors are magnified, and assumptions can render carbon dating all but useless.
For example, variations in greenhouse effects and solar radiation change how much carbon-14 a living organism is exposed to, which drastically changes the “starting point” from which a radiocarbon dating test is based.
When an organism dies, it stops taking in new carbon-14, and whatever is inside gradually decays into other elements.