Amino Acid Dating Wikipedia

Jeroen W. Thompson is Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical Physics and Applied Radiation Sciences at McMaster University. He is currently a research management consultant, with specific focus on radiation and environmental sciences. Apart from the dating of human artifacts, the development of long dendrochronologies has allowed environmental factors to be dated, giving important background information to the human story.

The isochron method

Absolute dates must agree with dates from other relative methods in order to be valid. The most widely used and accepted form of absolute dating is radioactive decay dating. Samples of Bristlecone pine, a tree with a very long life span, have been dated using both dendrochronology and radiocarbon dating. That is, the radiocarbon dates were always wrong by the same number of years.

Department of Medical Physics and Applied Radiation Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada

For this reason, and because some of the amino acid racimization dates have disagreed with dates achieved by other methods, the technique is no longer widely used. Each year seed-bearing plants release large numbers of pollen grains. This process results in a “rain” of pollen that falls over many types of environments. Pollen that ends up in lakebeds or peat bogs is the most likely to be preserved, but pollen may also become fossilized in arid conditions if the soil is acidic or cool.

This has produced a range of dates that even after calibration gives a spread that is not completely capable of distinguishing between a seventeenth and a sixteenth century b.c. In fact, the eruption falls on one of those parts of the radiocarbon calibration curve where it is actually not possible to distinguish between 1628 b.c. In this particular time frame, the collection of more and more radiocarbon samples to date a single event does not make the actual date any clearer. In order to appreciate the impact of the information that has been provided by radiocarbon dating on our understanding of prehistory, it is first necessary to have a brief understanding of the theory and practice of the methodology. In order to construct a meaningful story explaining the developments of human populations in any part of the world it is essential to have a reliable dating framework.

In daughter deficiency situations, the parent radioisotope is initially deposited by itself, without its daughter present. Through time, the parent decays to the daughter until the two are in equilibrium . The age of the deposit may be determined by measuring how much of the daughter has formed, providing that neither isotope has entered or exited the deposit after its initial formation.

Stuiver and Pearson’s later curve has become the standard against which most radiocarbon determinations in the time span back to about 6000 b.c. By successive overlapping of older and older material, long chronologies, over thousands of years, can be produced. The so-called half-life for carbon 14—that is, the time it takes to decay to half its original amount—was understood by Libby early on to be 5,568 years, whereas it is now known to be closer to 5,730 years. Also, the amounts being measured are very small indeed, so that minuscule errors in reading the amounts of radioactive material present in the sample will have proportionally a very large impact on the result.


Various experts had judged the artistic style of this object to be either Anglo-Saxon or Celtic . However, analysis of silt laid down, presumably around the time of formation, gave OSL dates in the range 1400–600 b.c.—dating the piece to the Late Bronze Age, which relates quite well to other finds in the area. Dates from Jericho suggested settlement around six thousand years ago, about fifteen hundred years earlier than expected (subsequent analyses have set the foundation of pre-pottery Jericho to around 7000 b.c.). Dates for the European Neolithic were coming out around a thousand years earlier than the accepted wisdom of the time.

Since certain species of animals existed on Earth at specific times in history, the fossils or remains of such animals embedded within those successive layers of rock also help scientists determine the age of the layers. Similarly, pollen grains released by seed-bearing plants became fossilized in rock layers. If a certain kind of pollen is found in an archaeological site, scientists can check when the plant that produced that pollen lived to determine the relative age of the site. Absolute dating methods produce an actual date, usually accurate to within a few years. If a date for a certain layer in an excavation can be established using an absolute dating method, other artifacts in the same layer can safely be assigned the same age.

Potassium-argon dating

Absolute techniques give an absolute estimate of the age and fall into two main groups. The first depends on the existence of something that develops at a seasonally varying rate, as in dendrochronology and varve dating. Thermoluminescence dating is very useful for determining the age of pottery. Electrons from quartz and other minerals in the pottery clay are bumped out of their normal positions when the clay is exposed to radiation .

The protein phase in bone also contains carbon, but it is more stable than bone mineral after death and burial. Thus, bone protein is probably the best source of carbon for radiometric dating. In the case of bone protein, it is very much simpler to do this than for bone mineral, because bone protein is resistant to demineralizing agents. These agents remove soil contaminants along with the bone mineral and leave behind the insoluble protein that contains carbon incorporated in bone protein during the life of the individual.

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