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On This Day



On This Day… A Big Day For Archaeology!

Written by: George Chittenden : 07 Jul 2019

It was on this day, 27th February, back in 1940 when two scientists discovered the carbon isotope 14C which would eventually lead to effective carbon dating. Martin Kamen and Samuel Ruben were working at the University of California, Berkeley, when they detected radioactivity in a sample of CO2 obtained by burning graphite that had been blasted with deuterons.

They discovered the isotope had a very long half-life, around 5730 years. In 1949 Ruben and Kamen's discovery was developed further, allowing the age of organic objects to be calculated by comparing the ratio of remaining 14C in a sample to the atmospheric content at the time of death.

The ability to effectively date objects using this technique has had a huge impact on archaeology.

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