Archaeologists have long used carbon-14 dating (also known as radiocarbon dating) to estimate the age of certain objects.
Traditional radiocarbon dating is applied to organic remains between 500 and 50,000 years old and exploits the fact that trace amounts of radioactive carbon are found in the natural environment.
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.
In contrast, from 1955 to 1963, atmospheric radiocarbon levels almost doubled.
In this article, we will examine the methods by which scientists use radioactivity to determine the age of objects, most notably carbon-14 dating.The researchers found that year-of-death determinations based on nails were accurate to within three years.The generally poor post-mortem preservation of soft tissues would be a limiting factor to this approach.The researchers found that certain soft tissues — notably blood, nails and hair — had radiocarbon levels identical to the contemporary atmosphere.Therefore, the radiocarbon level in those tissues post-mortem would indicate the year of death.