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SAN FRANCISCO, March 23, 2010 — Scientists today described development of a new method to determine the age of ancient mummies, old artwork, and other relics without causing damage to these treasures of global cultural heritage.
In conventional dating methods, scientists remove a small sample from an object, such as a cloth or bone fragment.
Then they treat the sample with a strong acid and a strong base and finally burn the sample in a small glass chamber to produce carbon dioxide gas to analyze its C-14 content.
Rowe’s new method, called “non-destructive carbon dating,” eliminates sampling, the destructive acid-base washes, and burning.
“This technique stands to revolutionize radiocarbon dating,” said Marvin Rowe, Ph. “It expands the possibility for analyzing extensive museum collections that have previously been off limits because of their rarity or intrinsic value and the destructive nature of the current method of radiocarbon dating.
In theory, it could even be used to date the Shroud of Turin.” Rowe explained that the new method is a form of radiocarbon dating, the archaeologist’s standard tool to estimate the age of an object by measuring its content of naturally-occurring radioactive carbon.