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Carbon-14 can also be affected locally by volcanic eruptions causing dates to be too old (see Much-inflated carbon-14 dates from subfossil trees: a new mechanism).

These disagree with their result by 2,000 to 5,000 years, yet they simply dismiss the previous work by saying it was not systematic. Dr Tracey Lu, an anthropologist from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, noted that the dates are older than dates for similar pottery found in several places in East Asia, including Japan.

She said that she would have expected the pottery throughout the area to have been produced more or less at the same time.

During the Flood, volcanic eruptions blasted carbon dioxide (low in carbon-14) into the atmosphere, vast quantities of vegetation (containing carbon) were buried under sediment, carbon dioxide was dissolved in the oceans, carbon was incorporated into the vast formations of carbonate rocks and changes in the earth’s magnetic fields affected the cosmic shield, changing the rate of production of carbon-14.

Creation scientists estimate that proportion of carbon-14 in the atmosphere relative to carbon-12 was much lower after the Flood, which would give dates that are very old.

However, the dates calculated still require a number of assumptions to be made about the past, including the carbon-14 concentration in the earth’s atmosphere and whether the sample has been contaminated.

Unfortunately none of these assumptions can be known for certain because we cannot make observations in the past.

Elisabetta Boaretto of Israel’s Weizmann Institute led a team of scientists to the site in 2005, where they carefully excavated areas of the cave.

They recorded the arrangement of the strata on the floor and collected samples of bone, charcoal, pottery and other human artifacts.

This claim hinges on the carbon-14 dates, and these are calculated from the measured concentration of carbon-14 in the samples.

Advances in technology over recent decades means carbon-14 atoms can be counted with great precision.

Reports about human origins tend to catch the attention of the world’s media, especially when they claim older and older dates.

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