Conventional carbon dating estimates the age of an artifact based on its content of carbon-14 (C-14), a naturally occurring, radioactive form of carbon.
Comparing the C-14 levels in the object to levels of C-14 expected in the atmosphere for a particular historic period allows scientists to estimate the age of an artifact.
The new method is based on the fact that over the past 60 years, environmental levels of radiocarbon have been significantly perturbed by mid-20th-century episodes of above-ground nuclear weapons testing.
Before the nuclear age, the amount of radiocarbon in the environment varied little in the span of a century.
SAN FRANCISCO, March 23, 2010 -- Scientists today described development of a new method to determine the age of ancient mummies, old artwork, and other relics without causing damage to these treasures of global cultural heritage.
Reporting at the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), they said it could allow scientific analysis of hundreds of artifacts that until now were off limits because museums and private collectors did not want the objects damaged.
A professor emeritus at Texas A&M University College Station, Rowe teaches at a branch of the university in Qatar.
Traditional carbon dating involves removing and burning small samples of the object.
Discovering who was a leader, or even if leaders existed, from the ruins of archaeological sites is difficult, but now a team of archaeologists and biological anthropologists, using a powerful combination of radiocarbon dating and ancient DNA, have shown that a matrilineal dynasty likely ruled Pueblo Bonito in New Mexico for more than 300 years.
"We are not saying that this was a state-level society," said Douglas J.
Carbon 14 is continually being created in the Earth's atmosphere by the interaction of nitrogen and gamma rays from outer space.