Start Carbon dating and the

Carbon dating and the

Radiocarbon, or Carbon-14, dating is probably one of the most widely used and best known absolute dating methods. Radiocarbon dating relies on a simple natural phenomenon.

Clearly they can’t be any more recent than the Dissolution of 1538.

The small pieces of bone were combusted to produce carbon dioxide which was then put through a mass spectrometer.

Testing two pieces each at two different facilities should provide consistent results – and indeed it did. The proportion of C-14 in the atmosphere, and hence in living things, is not constant but varies over the centuries, and it also varies between the atmosphere and the oceans.

C-12 and C-13 are stable but C-14 decays at a known rate, with a half-life of 5,568 years.

University of Leicester archaeologists took four small samples from one of the ribs of the Greyfriars skeleton and sent them to two specialist units with the facilities to analyse them: the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC) at the University of Glasgow, and the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, part of the University of Oxford’s Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art.

Because it reacts identically to C-12 and C-13, C-14 becomes attached to complex organic molecules through photosynthesis in plants and becomes part of their molecular makeup.

Animals eating those plants in turn absorb Carbon-14 as well as the stable isotopes.

This tendency to decay, called radioactivity, is what gives radiocarbon the name radiocarbon.