Prior to that, they had to depend on more rudimentary and imprecise methods, such as counting the number of rings on a cross-section of tree trunk.
This all changed in the 1940s when US chemist Willard Libby discovered that carbon-14, a radioactive isotope, could be used to date organic compounds.
Libby, the discoverer of the C14 dating method, was very disappointed with this problem.
Scientists at the Lamont-Doherty Geological Laboratory of Columbia University at Palisades, N.
Y., reported today in the British journal Nature that some estimates of age based on carbon analyses were wrong by as much as 3,500 years.
Radiocarbon dating, which is used to calculate the age of certain organic materials, has been found to be unreliable, and sometimes wildly so - a discovery that could upset previous studies on climate change, scientists from China and Germany said in a new paper.
Their recent analysis of sediment from the largest freshwater lake in northeast China showed that its carbon clock stopped ticking as early as 30,000 years ago, or nearly half as long as was hitherto thought.
Clearly, such huge time periods cannot be fitted into the Bible without compromising what the Bible says about the goodness of God and the origin of sin, death and suffering—the reason Jesus came into the world (See Six Days? He said, This only makes sense with a time-line beginning with the creation week thousands of years ago.