Volume 46, Issue 6 (November 2001)
Artificial Radiocarbon as an Indicator of Recent Origin of Organic Remains in Forensic Cases
From 1950 to 1963 atmospheric testing of thermonuclear devices produced elevated levels of artificial carbon-14 in the atmosphere. Terrestrial organic material from that time period displays carbon-14 activity nearly twice the pre-1950 levels. Measurement of the carbon-14 activity within organic specimens from forensic cases can reveal if the material dates before or after about 1955. Such information can prove important in some cases in determining if the material is sufficiently recent to be of forensic concern. Application of this technique to an unidentified human skeleton from the American southwest is discussed.