Science of carbon dating

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The ground-up bone is treated with hydrochloric acid, which dissolves out the hard part of the bone.The remaining material goes through a gelatinisation process to free up the bone protein.Historical artefacts like moa bones can be dated using a technique that measures the activity of the radioisotope carbon-14 still present in the sample.By comparing this with a modern standard, an estimate of the calendar age of the artefact can be made.

The carbon dioxide is collected and bubbled through various chemicals in the line, which purify it, and the amount of carbon dioxide that has been collected is measured.

To obtain a calendar age for the sample, this radiocarbon age needs to be compared against samples of known age by means of a calibration curve using a specially designed computer software application.

This application uses a terrestrial calibration curve to calculate the calendar age.

The carbon dioxide formed in the combustion stage is heated in the presence of pure lithium metal, which produces lithium carbide.

When all of the carbon dioxide has reacted, distilled water is added to the lithium carbide and a chemical reaction occurs, resulting in the production of acetylene gas.

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