Carbon dating wood

27-Sep-2017 20:01

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Upon encountering a new site, the archaeologist immediately requires information about its age in order to set it in context with other sites.

In research into our heritage the conservationist or architect may be able to date the general period of a building he is working with from either the situation, materials of construction, type of timber joints or other stylistic features.

Unfortunately, after many years of analysis he was not able to confirm the correlation he sought.

Nevertheless, the laboratory was able to demonstrate many interesting properties of ring widths and their relationship with various aspects of climate and other natural phenomena and, of course, their use in the accurate dating of timber.

Dendrochronology is the oldest method, having been introduced over a century ago by an American astronomer, Professor A E Douglass.

He wanted to know whether the number of sunspots affected weather on Earth.

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It was not until 1939 that the science was taken seriously in Europe, mainly through the efforts of Professor Huber in Germany, and not until after World War II that such studies became established in the UK.None is infallible and before embarking on an extensive dating survey, due thought must be given to what might be achieved and which methods might be the more successful. Whilst earlier types of wooden joints may be copied in later buildings and earlier styles may be reintroduced in later periods to confound the conservationist or historian, any reuse of older materials should become obvious by the use of the chronometrical methods described here.The incorporation of ancient bog oak into a building, no matter how intricately carved or jointed, would immediately become obvious to the chronologist, as would timber renovations.Carbon-14 is also passed onto the animals that eat those plants.

After death the amount of carbon-14 in the organic specimen decreases very regularly as the molecules decay.Almost certainly the century or portion of a century when it was built may be assigned with some certainty.

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