So far the technique has been has been used to analyse both medieval and post medieval bone samples provided by Norton Priory Museum & Gardens, the most excavated monastic site in Europe.
The initial results have been compared with the conventional methods and show encouraging levels of agreement.
The researchers claim that their idea could have other applications, including biomedical procedures, environmental monitoring, fundamental physics and explosives detection.
Carbon dating is an essential tool of modern archaeology because it allows the age of a biological sample to be determined from the radioactivity of its carbon compounds.
A new way to carbon-date old samples has been developed by physicists in Italy.
Unlike current methods, which involve large and costly laboratory equipment, the new technique can be performed using portable and low-cost equipment.
This is one of the very, very few sites in Mora County that have been excavated,” she said of the site reported by the state Department of Transportation.
And the ancillary part of that is it’s non-destructive.”That’s important to Nancy Akins, a research associate with the Office of Archaeological Studies, who in February was having a bison tooth and sheep bone tested by “Marvin’s Machine.” The items were excavated from the site of a rock shelter in Coyote Canyon north of Mora.“It could be 500 years old or it could be 5,000 years old,” she said of the bison tooth, the result allowing her to complete her report of the site that she’s determined to have been used by humans as a hunting outpost starting 1,700 years ago.“I’m just waiting on the dates, because it’ll change everything if we get dates where I can actually say, ‘OK, that’s what the sheep bones date to and that’s what the bison dates to.’ It tells us an awful lot about how they were using the land on the east side of the Sangre de Cristos.”Because a lot of that part of New Mexico is private property or under land grants, such finds as the one in Coyote Canyon are rare, she said.“Unless there’s a road or something, we don’t have any information at all.
Mass spectometer The new technology uses a quadrupole mass spectrometer (QMS) which will reduce the time it takes to obtain data for a bone sample to just two days.
Significantly the technology can also be utilised onsite, and this is the first time this has been attempted.
Radiocarbon dating is used to determine the age of ancient objects by means of measuring the amount of carbon-14 remaining in a sample.
However it is an expensive process which takes place offsite and typically takes six weeks or more which means that an excavation is likely to be over before the important dating information can be obtained.