The carbon-14 method was developed by the American physicist Willard F. It has proved to be a versatile technique of dating fossils and archaeological specimens from 500 to 50,000 years old.
The method is widely used by Pleistocene geologists, anthropologists, archaeologists, and investigators in related fields.
Radiocarbon dating works by comparing the three different isotopes of carbon.
Isotopes of a particular element have the same number of protons in their nucleus, but different numbers of neutrons.
View the full list Radiocarbon dating has transformed our understanding of the past 50,000 years.
Professor Willard Libby produced the first radiocarbon dates in 1949 and was later awarded the Nobel Prize for his efforts.
This is affected by solar activity and the earth’s magnetic field.
Significantly the technology can also be utilised onsite, and this is the first time this has been attempted.
“The expense and time consuming nature of conventional methods will also no longer be a barrier and it’s likely that many more samples will be able to be taken with significant benefits to the archaeological record.” It is anticipated that the first new QMS unit of its type is will be commercially available for field trials by archaeologists in 2016.
The development is funded by the Art Council for England’s Museum Resilience Fund which supports museums to become more financially sustainable.
So far the technique has been has been used to analyse both medieval and post medieval bone samples provided by Norton Priory Museum & Gardens, the most excavated monastic site in Europe.
The initial results have been compared with the conventional methods and show encouraging levels of agreement.
Lifting the barriers Professor Steve Taylor, from the University’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Electronics who is leading the project, said: “It will be a challenge to develop a portable instrument to achieve the required performance, but thanks to this funding we are in a strong position to make a real attempt.” Frank Hargrave, Director of Norton Priory said: “The potential of this new technique is incalculable.