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Two distinct sediment layers have formed in the lake every summer and winter over tens of thousands of years.The researchers collected roughly 70-metre core samples from the lake and painstakingly counted the layers to come up with a direct record stretching back 52,000 years.Measuring the amount of water that had penetrated the obsidian's surface allowed them to gauge how long it had been exposed and to determine its age.The study sites reflected the environmental diversity of the 63-square-mile island situated nearly 2,300 miles off the west coast of Chile.The clock was initially calibrated by dating objects of known age such as Egyptian mummies and bread from Pompeii; work that won Willard Libby the 1960 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.But even he “realized that there probably would be variation”, says Christopher Bronk Ramsey, a geochronologist at the University of Oxford, UK, who led the latest work, published today in Science.Moai on Easter Island Previous Pause Next Monolithic human figures called moai were carved from rock between 12 by the inhabitants of Easter Island, which lies more than two thousand of miles off the coast of Chile.A new study by a group of international researchers, including UC Santa Barbara's Oliver Chadwick, offers a different explanation and helps to clarify the chronological framework.

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

Climate records from a Japanese lake are set to improve the accuracy of the dating technique, which could help to shed light on archaeological mysteries such as why Neanderthals became extinct.

Carbon dating is used to work out the age of organic material — in effect, any living thing.

Was environmental degradation the cause, or could a political revolution or an epidemic of disease be to blame?

A collaborative study suggests that the island's native culture reacted to natural environmental barriers to producing sufficient crops.

"The other side says it had nothing to do with cultural behavior, that it was the Europeans who brought disease that killed the Rapa Nui.

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