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A buffalo tooth rests in a tube of the Low Energy Plasma Radiocarbon Sampling machine located in the New Mexico Office of Archaeological Studies lab.Rachel Wood does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.It is used in dating things such as bone, cloth, wood and plant fibers that were created in the relatively recent past by human activities. The method was developed by Willard Libby in the late 1940s and soon became a standard tool for archaeologists.

Isotopes of a particular element have the same number of protons in their nucleus, but different numbers of neutrons.They have to use acids and, within that process, you lose a large part of your sample and you destroy it,” Blinman explained.“But we now have the ability to date incredibly small amounts of carbon – 40-100 millionths of a gram – and that is the real revolutionary aspect of this.At an ar­chaeological dig, a piece of wooden tool is unearthed and the archaeologist finds it to be 5,000 years old.A child mummy is found high in the Andes and the archaeologist says the child lived more than 2,000 years ago.

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