Application of carbon dating in archeology
Dating Not the saucy kind of dating: Richard was reportedly “not shaped for sportive tricks, nor made to court an amorous looking glass”.The ages of things of interest to archaeologists – including royal bones – can be estimated from the proportion of carbon-14 they contain.
Measuring the ratio of the two isotopes, and knowing carbon-14’s half-life, allows archaeologists to estimate the date on which a living organism died. Initial work on the body now known to be that of Richard III gave a date of death of between 14 – much earlier than the date of the battle in which he died, which took place in 1485.At temperatures of below 7.2 K, lead becomes a superconductor, but its magnetisation changes depending on how corroded it’s become.Because lead corrodes at a predictable rate, its age can be estimated.For example, rootlet intrusion, soil type (e.g., limestone carbonates), and handling of the specimens in the field or lab (e.g., accidental introduction of tobacco ash, hair, or fibers) can all potentially affect the age of a sample.Bioturbation by crabs, rodents, and other animals can also cause samples to move between strata leading to age reversals.However, there are a number of other factors that can affect the amount of carbon present in a sample and how that information is interpreted by archaeologists.
Thus a great deal of care is taken in securing and processing samples and multiple samples are often required if we want to be confident about assigning a date to a site, feature, or artifact (read more about the radiocarbon dating technique at:
This process of decay occurs at a regular rate and can be measured.
By comparing the amount of carbon 14 remaining in a sample with a modern standard, we can determine when the organism died, as for example, when a shellfish was collected or a tree cut down.
Researchers from the University of Leicester have confirmed that the body found buried under a car park in the city is that of 15th-century English monarch and Shakespearean villain King Richard III.
Archaeology is an interdisciplinary science, and much of it – from establishing the ages of artefacts to mapping a site before excavating it – makes use of physics.
Another form of spectrometry has been used since the 1970s to improve the accuracy of radiocarbon dating even further.