Volume 34, Issue 5 (September 1989)
The Use of Radiocarbon (14C) to Identify Human Skeletal Materials of Forensic Science Interest
The radiocarbon (14C) method is a well-known isotopic dating technique by which age can be assigned to organic materials, including human bone. Natural and anthropogenic anomalies in 14C activity in the biosphere over the last few centuries, including the presence of artificial or “bomb” 14C after 1950, can be used as an isotopic tracer to assign human bone samples with high degrees of probability to one of three temporal periods within the recent past: a Non-modern period (before about A.D. 1650) of no forensic science interest, a Pre-modern period (A.D. 1650 to 1950) of possible or potential forensic science interest, and a Modern period (A.D. 1950 to the present) of definite forensic science interest. We illustrate the use of the 14C method to assign human bone in five forensic science cases to one of these time periods.