Carbon dating example

Charcoal is less likely than wood to have exchanged carbon with its environment, but a charcoal sample is likely to have absorbed humic acid and/or carbonates, which must be removed with alkali and acid washes. The constituents of bone include proteins, which contain carbon; bone's structural strength comes from calcium hydroxyapatite, which is easily contaminated with carbonates from ground water.

Removing the carbonates also destroys the calcium hydroxyapatite, and so it is usual to date bone using the remaining protein fraction after washing away the calcium hydroxyapatite and contaminating carbonates. Collagen is sometimes degraded, in which case it may be necessary to separate the proteins into individual amino acids and measure their respective ratios and activity.

This allowed Libby to determine how much of the sample was ash, and hence to determine the purity of the carbon sample to be tested.Hydroxyproline, one of the constituent amino acids in bone, was once thought to be a reliable indicator as it was not known to occur except in bone, but it has since been detected in groundwater.For burnt bone, testability depends on the conditions under which the bone was burnt.A child mummy is found high in the Andes and the archaeologist says the child lived more than 2,000 years ago.How do scientists know how old an object or human remains are?

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