When the C14 method was originally developed, Libby and his research team had to assume that the ratios of the carbon isotopes they were measuring had been altered only by 14C decay (Taylor, 1987:3) and that the sample material accurately represented the event to be dated.
Sample materials deposited in archaeological or geological contexts seldom remain in pristine condition, of course, they are often degraded and altered chemically.
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Pretreatments are designed to remove the contaminating substances that have affected the sample during its post-depositional history.
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If pretreatments were able to be uniformly implemented, there would have to be a uniform and predictable array of post-depositional characteristics between all samples. Each sample submitted for dating has its own specific depositional history.
The variety in environment and post-depositional features is reflected in the variety and complexity of pretreatment procedures and the variety of different types of dateable material (see above).
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