The history of radiocarbon dating

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The diagram above [redrawn from ] shows the decay curve for carbon-14, together with some comparison samples Libby used (including wood dated by tree rings and items from the tomb of Pharaoh Zoser, for whom the first of the pyramids was built). Later tests of carbon-dating have used dendrochronology back to about 10,000 BC.The carbon in plants contains about one part per trillion of carbon-14, which the plants absorb from the atmosphere.Such calibrated dates are reported as “Before Present” (BP), where “Present” means 1 January 1950.

An age could be estimated by measuring the amount of carbon-14 present in the sample and comparing this against an internationally used reference standard.The impact of the radiocarbon dating technique on modern man has made it one of the most significant discoveries of the 20th century.No other scientific method has managed to revolutionize man’s understanding not only of his present but also of events that already happened thousands of years ago.They used an Agilent ICP-MS to obtain trace element concentration profiles on bone samples.UK scientists investigated the most suitable techniques for extracting the highest-quality collagen from archaeological bones.

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