Since the early twentieth century scientists have found ways to accurately measure geological time. The discovery of radioactivity in uranium by the French physicist, Henri Becquerelin paved the way of measuring absolute time. Shortly after Becquerel's find, Marie Curiea French chemist, isolated another highly radioactive element, radium. The realisation that radioactive materials emit rays indicated a constant change of those materials from one element to another. The New Zealand physicist Ernest Rutherfordsuggested in that the exact age of a rock could be measured by means of radioactivity.
In addition to taking an active part in a number of research projectsthe laboratory carries out age measurements under contract to Historic Environment Scotland. We also provide a radiocarbon dating service to national museums, academic staff in a large number of universities worldwide, and many UK and European commercial archaeology units. The laboratory can provide advice on sample selection, full sample pretreatment and graphite target preparation, stable isotope measurement, 14 C analysis at the SUERC AMS Laboratory and subsequent calibration of results to the calendar timescale. If requested, the laboratory's chronological modelling team can additionally create a Bayesian site-model. We also have an expert in pottery identification Derek Hall: email Derek associated with the laboratory.
Archeologists use various methods to date objects. Inscriptions, distinctive markings, and historical documents can all offer clues to an artifact's age. And if the artifact is organic—like wood or bone—researchers can turn to a method called radiocarbon dating. In this interactive, learn how radiocarbon dating works, what it takes to determine a date in the lab, and why it's challenging to pinpoint a date precisely.
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