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Bone dating, for example, requires large amounts of sample because the fractions which are usually extracted comprise a small percentage of the total material and the target fractions decompose rapidly.
Often, submitted samples are divided and one portion retained as a reference in case the original sample is lost, or a further date required.
Isotopic exchange occurs when shells exchange carbon with percolating ground acids.
This alters their isotopic ratios and affects their 'true' age.
Natural contamination occurs in the post-depositional environment.
The submitter should also indicate the degree of accuracy and precision required.
Sometimes, a precise date is not needed and pretreatment methods designed to reduce errors will not be necessary.
Many commercial laboratories have different charges for dating depending on the precision (and speed) that is required.
A high-precision date may involve the lab in more intensive pretreatment and labour and consequently costs are higher.Samples may be contaminated by material which make any radiocarbon result either too old or too young.