Under a microscope, a lab technician cleans a tiny wood chip extracted from an American museum treasure.
This fragment no bigger than a fingernail is enough to divine whether the artefact it came from is really the Roman musical instrument its owners believe it to be. Lab manager Dr Christine Prior already has bad news for another client — an art authenticator in Hong Kong. The drinking vessels made from rhino horn she sent for radiocarbon dating turned out to be modern fakes. Although little-feted, GNS's Rafter Radiocarbon laboratory in Lower Hutt was among the world's first to use radioactive decay to unravel history.
Set up init remains the longest-running. Prior runs the half of the laboratory that cleans and distils samples down to pure elemental carbon, or graphite. It's that radioactive form of carbon — known as C14 — that is the key to discovering whether a carved ivory sculpture is an antiquity or a modern sham feeding poachers' coffers; whether a water bore is sucking dry an age-old aquifer or tapping a renewable store; Vodka family radioactive dating a picture frame predates the painting in it.
Prior planned to "Vodka family radioactive dating" a "regular scientist", like her aerospace engineer father. But as a little girl her parents took her to the archaeological sites of Colorado's Mesa Verde.
At university she took some anthropology classes to find out what those ruins were really all about. Then she got hooked. They radiocarbon dated it and it came out as a couple of thousand years old. You could see there was the impression of somebody's toes. You could see "Vodka family radioactive dating" had worn it and the straps were not there any more and you could just imagine somebody going 'I'm not wearing these one more day — I need new shoes' and flinging it to the back of the cave.
It is somebody's sweaty little footprints right there and all of a sudden, you feel like you're there years ago. These days Prior rarely gets to hold the objects her team is dating. Often they will get photos of the bigger item to place the tiny samples in context.
Sometimes Prior will get to take the sample herself, getting buzzed up to an exclusive London showroom to remove a single fibre of an ancient textile crafted by a Vodka family radioactive dating of women years ago, "needles flashing, gossiping away".
Every sample tells a story. Sometimes it's a story nobody is expecting.
When Canterbury Museum radiocarbon dated one of its mummies and her sarcophagus it discovered that the coffin was much older than its contents. And when an ivory artefact submitted by an American conservator came out at 10s of thousands of Vodka family radioactive dating old — an impossibility for human art — Prior fretted that they had somehow contaminated the process. The conservator, however, was not angry at the result.
As the Arctic ice sheets melt, the Siberian tundra is being exposed, together with preserved mammoth tusks, which are then carved and sold as ivory antiques.
Radiocarbon dating was invented by American Willard Libby in the late s. It uses the presence of radioactive carbon 14 in living things to deduce the age of old objects.
When something is alive, its ratio of C14 to the two stable forms of carbon, C12 and C13 is in harmony with its environment. But when it dies, the radioactive C14 begins to decay, while the levels of C12 and C13 remain constant. And that is all radiocarbon dating is," Prior says matter-of-factly. The devil, of course, is in the detail.
To get an accurate date you have to know how much C14 the organism had in the first place and how C14 levels in the atmosphere have changed over time. The way scientists achieve that is by radiocarbon dating things they Vodka family radioactive dating the age of — trees. By dating the rings of ancient tree trunks they have created a continuous chain of data going back more than 10, years.
Radiocarbon Vodka family radioactive dating must be the only people who are excited about the world's foray into nuclear bombs and testing. While radiocarbon dating of more modern objects can be problematic, the so-called bomb peak allows scientists to quickly separate ancient and modern.