7 minute dating
As the diagenetic alteration proceeds, the quantity and quality of the collagen decreases; consequently, the sample size must increase in order to compensate for protein loss.
Radiocarbon dating ancient bones can therefore prove challenging.
Because hard tissues can be radiocarbon dated, they are key to establishing the archaeological chronologies, palaeoenvironmental reconstructions and historical-biogeographical processes of the last 50,000 years.
The advent of accelerator mass spectrometers (AMS) has revolutionized the field of archaeology but routine AMS dating still requires 60–200 mg of bone, which far exceeds that of small vertebrates or remains which hold a patrimonial value (e.g. Here, we present the first radiocarbon dates obtained from minute amounts of bone (3–60 mg) using a MIni CArbon DAting System (MICADAS).
While it decreases the amount of carbon required for a radiocarbon measurement by several orders of magnitude, the AMS dating of bone collagen still requires at least 60–200 mg of bone, depending on the protein preservation and the extraction protocol.
Our approach was elaborated on known-age samples from the Fifth International radiocarbon Inter-comparison (VIRI) and served as proof of concept.
The method was then applied to two archaeological sites where the single bones of small mammals were AMS-dated, and the dates compared to standard-size bone samples found in the near vicinity.
Because they can be identified to the species level and radiocarbon dated, these fossil remains are key to establishing the archaeological chronologies, palaeoenvironmental reconstructions and historical-biogeographical processes (i.e.
post-glacial recolonization events) of the last 50,000 years.