Carbon dating paint
Most of them that I’ve encountered are inorganic pigments and that’s where the importance of the small sample comes in.”Blinman adds that, under the best of circumstances, standard radiocarbon dating requires 30 milligrams of carbon.Rock art pigments don’t have that much carbon in them.Scientists at the New Mexico Office of Archaeological Studies use a Low Energy Plasma Radiocarbon Sampling device on a sample of gelatin at its lab near Santa Fe.The machine is used to date artifacts by doing minimal damage to the sample. — The contraption he built looks a little like something you might see from “The Nutty Professor.”But Marvin Rowe is no nut.He says much of what he learned was by trial and error.In fact, the first machine he and his Texas A&M colleagues built caught fire and was destroyed.
Marvin Rowe, left, and Jeffery Cox, both scientists at the New Mexico Office of Archaeological Studies, adjust the Low Energy Plasma Radiocarbon Sampling device they built at their lab in Santa Fe.
“The experience of the artifact is no different than your body temperature or, worst case, Phoenix on a summer day,” he said.
The plasmas in Rowe’s machine are generated with radio frequencies, rather than electricity, and work like a cleaning agent to scrub off the CO2.“We have to use the ultra pure gases because any contamination from modern, atmospheric CO2 is going to screw up the data.
So he has bled off high-purity oxygen into a reservoir that we will then tap as we generate plasmas,” Blinman said.
And what’s unique about “Marvin’s Machine” is that it has five chambers, so multiple samples can be tested at once. “To my knowledge, nobody has gotten more than one plasma running at one time.”The Archaeology Institute of America’s Archaeology magazine named Rowe’s non-destructive dating method one of the Top 10 discoveries of 2010.
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“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.