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The Wairau Bar in Blenheim is one of the oldest archaeological sites in New Zealand.
This allows corrections to be made on radiocarbon dates in order to produce more accurate dates.
Radiocarbon dating, or carbon-14 dating, can be used to date material that had its origins in a living thing as long as the material contains carbon.
The carbon dioxide formed in the combustion stage is heated in the presence of pure lithium metal, which produces lithium carbide.
When all of the carbon dioxide has reacted, distilled water is added to the lithium carbide and a chemical reaction occurs, resulting in the production of acetylene gas.
The results from the liquid scintillation spectrometer are carefully analysed and provide a radiocarbon age for the sample.
This gas is then passed through a vanadium-based catalyst column, which produces liquid benzene (C).
A scintillator chemical (butyl-PBD) is added to the liquid benzene.
All air is evacuated from the vacuum line because it has C-14 in it and is a potential contaminant.
Then a stream of oxygen is added into the system and the sample is combusted.
To obtain a calendar age for the sample, this radiocarbon age needs to be compared against samples of known age by means of a calibration curve using a specially designed computer software application.