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Application of Radiocarbon Dating to Forensic Investigation and Evaluation of Formaldehyde Influence on Radiocarbon Age

  • Wan Hong (a1) (a2), N-E Chung (a3), G Park (a1), K H Sung (a1) (a2), J G Lee (a1) and J-P Park (a3)...


A radiocarbon (14C) dating technique with accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) was applied to estimate the year of death and the year of birth of unidentified human remains. Because many of the samples have been preserved in formaldehyde, it was necessary to evaluate the influence of formaldehyde on carbon ages. Samples intentionally preserved in formaldehyde during the known period were measured, and their Δ14C values were compared with results obtained from fresh samples. The influence of formaldehyde on soft tissue was 14 times larger than that on cortical bone. Unfortunately, an effective method for removing the influence of formaldehyde has not yet been found. 14C ages could be obtained only from the samples not preserved in formaldehyde. The years of birth were determined by the ages of the dentin samples, while the years of death were determined by the ages of the bone and soft tissue samples. Multiple sampling from a body provides an advantage in determination of one of two possible ages of a sample obtained using the bomb peak. Victims of the Korean War were ascertained by the year of death. The year of death and the age at death of unidentified bodies were also determined for forensic investigation.


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Selected Papers from the 2015 Radiocarbon Conference, Dakar, Senegal, 16–20 November 2015



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