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Libby, a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Chicago, predicted that a radioactive isotope of carbon, known as carbon-14, would be found to occur in nature.
Working with several collaboraters, Libby established the natural occurrence of radiocarbon by detecting its radioactivity in methane from the Baltimore sewer.
A Vindija bone sample from the remains of a modern human was dated at around 29,000 years old.The small pieces of bone were combusted to produce carbon dioxide which was then put through a mass spectrometer.Testing two pieces each at two different facilities should provide consistent results – and indeed it did. The proportion of C-14 in the atmosphere, and hence in living things, is not constant but varies over the centuries, and it also varies between the atmosphere and the oceans.Authenticity of the sampling is up-held by a photograph taken together with our unique laboratory reference number for the object.The quantity of sample that we require depends on the material being sampled. This equates to about one match stick sized piece for wood, or approximately half a postage stamp sized piece of textile.