Radiocarbon dating human bones

If bones have been exposed to water over a long period of time, it’s likely that the teeth will be more suitable for dating.

Spongy bones like ball and sockets, vertebra, and the like do not tend to preserve well in harsh conditions and may not yield sufficient collagen for AMS dating.

Beta Analytic accepts extracted bone collagen for AMS dating, but it will be listed as “organics” in the final report instead of “bone collagen” due to the lab’s ISO/IEC 17005 accreditation limitations.

If Beta Analytic did not perform the chemical pretreatments and/or extractions, the lab cannot specifically testify as to the material that was dated because certain steps affecting the sample quality have been outside of its control and scope of its accreditation.

However, as with any dating technique there are limits to the kinds of things that can be satisfactorily dated, levels of precision and accuracy, age range constraints, and different levels of susceptibility to contamination.

Radiocarbon dating is especially good for determining the age of sites occupied within the last 26,000 years or so (but has the potential for sites over 50,000), can be used on carbon-based materials (organic or inorganic), and can be accurate to within ±30-50 years.


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