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Take the extinction of Neanderthals, which occurred in western Europe less than 30,000 years ago.Archaeologists vehemently disagree over the effects changing climate and competition from recently arriving humans had on the Neanderthals' demise.

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Preserved leaves in the cores — “they look fresh as if they’ve fallen very recently”, Bronk Ramsey says — yielded 651 carbon dates that could be compared to the calendar dates of the sediment they were found in.

Bronk Ramsey’s team aimed to fill this gap by using sediment from bed of Lake Suigetsu, west of Tokyo.

Two distinct sediment layers have formed in the lake every summer and winter over tens of thousands of years.

The recalibrated clock won’t force archaeologists to abandon old measurements wholesale, says Bronk Ramsey, but it could help to narrow the window of key events in human history.

“If you’re trying to look at archaeological sites at the order of 30,000 or 40,000 years ago, the ages may shift by only a few hundred years but that may be significant in putting them before or after changes in climate,” he says.

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