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High-Sensitivity Radiocarbon Dating in the 50,000 to 70,000 bp Range without Isotopic Enrichment

  • Austin Long (a1) and Robert M. Kalin (a1)

Abstract

Calculations show the possibility of detecting 14C remaining after 10 or 11 decay half-lives in natural materials, such as wood, using commercially available liquid scintillation (LS) detectors. Assuming in-situ 14C production has contributed insignificantly to the measured 14C, one can calculate finite ages approaching 70 ka. In practice, defensible finite age determinations involve careful considerations of several critical elements in the procedure. These critical elements are: 1) the integrity of the sample itself, in terms of younger contaminants and of in situ-produced 14C; 2) the availability of “dead” background material; 3) chemical blank in laboratory preparation of, in this case, benzene; and 4) stability of background and efficiency of the LS counting system. High-sensitivity 14C dating reveals a low level of memory effect 14C in benzene synthesized in the laboratory from anthracite or marble. This level of 14C activity is equivalent to that found in 53 ka old wood, and thus, is not distinguishable from petrochemical benzene used in routine dating. If careful control of laboratory conditions can maintain this 14C blank constant, reproducible dating beyond 53 ka would be possible. Although we have not completed a systematic analysis of the origins of memory effect, lithium reactors used in acetylene production and organic solvents in wood pretreatment are likely sources.

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References

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High-Sensitivity Radiocarbon Dating in the 50,000 to 70,000 bp Range without Isotopic Enrichment

  • Austin Long (a1) and Robert M. Kalin (a1)

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