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Nyerup's words illustrate poignantly the critical power and importance of dating; to order time.Radiocarbon dating has been one of the most significant discoveries in 20th century science.A common misconception about radiocarbon dating is that it gives a precise date---3577 B. In actual practice radiocarbon dating can only give a range of dates for a given sample---3650 to 3410 B.

The procedure of radiocarbon dating can be used for remains that are up to 50,000 years old.Desmond Clark (1979) wrote that were it not for radiocarbon dating, "we would still be foundering in a sea of imprecisions sometime bred of inspired guesswork but more often of imaginative speculation" (Clark, 1979:7).Writing of the European Upper Palaeolithic, Movius (1960) concluded that "time alone is the lens that can throw it into focus".Modern accelerator mass spectrometry (used for radiocarbon dating purposes to separate radiocarbon atoms from stable carbon atoms and count them) is quite precise.The technology involved is fascinating and impressive.