Archaeological results from accelerator dating

Libby earned the 1960 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work.

archaeological results from accelerator dating-84

It might even explain why humans survived and Neanderthals did not.

“I admire him,” says Paul Mellars, an archaeologist from the University of Cambridge, UK, and an expert on this period in Europe, for “the sheer doggedness and sense of vision” he has for improving radiocarbon dating of the Palaeolithic.

If you Google 'archaeologist' and 'Higham', the first hit is likely to be Charles Higham, a 72-year-old professor who has charted the origins of agriculture and government in southeast Asia.

Tom was born in Cambridge, where his father was based until 1966.

“We know that it is older than Christendom,” he wrote, “but whether by a couple of years or a couple of centuries or even by more than a millennium, we can do no more than guess.” The fog began to lift in the middle of the twentieth century, when US chemist Willard Libby and his colleagues showed that all formerly living things bear a clock powered by radioactive carbon-14.

Organisms incorporate tiny amounts of this isotope as they grow, and they maintain a constant ratio between it and other, non-radioactive, carbon isotopes throughout their lives.

So, at his father's urging, Tom applied for and completed a Ph D at the University of Waikato's Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory in Hamilton, then did a postdoc there.

And when a faculty position became available at a better-funded lab at the University of Oxford in 2000, he moved back to his birth country.

Within 30,000 years, 98% of the already vanishingly small quantities of carbon-14 in bone is gone.

Tags: , ,