C and counting the amount of each) allows one to date the death of the once-living things.Perhaps you have heard of Ice Man, a man living in the Alps who died and was entombed in glacial ice until recently when the ice moved and melted.The man's body was recovered and pieces of tissue were studied for their C content by accelerator mass spectroscopy.
To determine year of birth, the researchers focused on tooth enamel.
Adult teeth are formed at known intervals during childhood.
However, more testing is needed to confirm that belief. 269, March 2012NCJ 237722 Philip Bulman is a writer and editor at NIJ.
Danielle Mc Leod-Henning is a program manager and physical scientist at NIJ.
However, the researchers suggested that soft tissue radiocarbon content would be transferred to, and preserved in, the pupal cases of insects whose larvae feed on these tissues.
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Such insects are simply another link in the food chain.Unlike tooth enamel, soft tissues are constantly being made and remade during life.Thus, their radiocarbon levels mirror those in the changing environment.Radiocarbon levels in teeth formed before then contained less radiocarbon than expected, so when applied to teeth formed during that period, the method was less precise.To determine year of death, the researchers used radiocarbon levels in soft tissues.Thus, pupal case radiocarbon content would serve as a decay-resistant proxy for the tissues, yielding the year of death.The spike in atmospheric carbon-14 levels during the 1950s and early 1960s makes this approach possible, but it also means it will have a limited period of utility because the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere is slowly returning to its natural level.Over the past six decades, the amount of radiocarbon in people or their remains depends heavily on when they were born or, more precisely, when their tissues were formed.Forensic anthropologists at The University of Arizona took advantage of this fact in a recent study funded by NIJ.Now, new applications for the technique are emerging in forensics, thanks to research funded by NIJ and other organizations.In recent years, forensic scientists have started to apply carbon-14 dating to cases in which law enforcement agencies hope to find out the age of a skeleton or other unidentified human remains.