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Lecture 15

Lecture 15 – Laboratory Methods for Radiocarbon Dating

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Anthropology 2229F/G
Christopher Ellis

Lecture 15 – Laboratory Methods for Radiocarbon Dating  Conventional/traditional radiocarbon date generation by: o 1. Gas Proportional Counting  Convert the sample to carbon dioxide and measure the amount of carbon  Measure by the radioactive decay  Count the number of decays in a certain timeframe  Not a direct measurement of C-14 o 2. Liquid Scintillation Counting  Convert sample into a benzene liquid (C 6 6  Add a scintillant – gives off light every time a radioactive decay occurs  Count number of decays occur over a period of time  Allows for an estimate of how much C-14 is in the sample o Methods only good for about +/- 100 years, no less, cannot be very precise o Need a fairly large sample (e.g. 10-25 grams of charcoal, 3000 grams of bone), often fairly difficult to get that much  Nuclear Accelerators o Revolutionized radiocarbon dating o AMS dates o Run isotopes past powerful magnets, those with a higher mass bend differently past the magnets o Advantages:  Measures the radiocarbon in the sample directly, not an estimate  Do not need as big a sample (e.g. use a piece of charcoal the size of a pinhead (milligrams) instead of large pieces, single seeds, e
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