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Position: Deputy Director, Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory, Field: Radiocarbon dating, Organisation: University of Waikato Dr Fiona Petchey is deputy director of the Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory based at the University of Waikato.Currently, her research is focused on the dating of bone and shell from sites in New Zealand and the Pacific, specifically marine reservoir collections and the influence of diet on human bone C-14.Having trained in archaeology and geology at the University of Auckland, Fiona obtained her Ph D in radiocarbon dating at Waikato University.She has undertaken research investigating Lapita age sites in the Pacific.
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Radioactive decay still continues, however, with the C-14 activity decreasing over time.
A 1 gram sample of carbon from living material shows an activity of about 14 disintegrations per minute. If an excavated sample of plant or animal origin from an archaeological site had a measured activity of 7 disintegrations per minute (dpm), the age of the sample could be fixed at about 5,730 years ± 40 years.
At 3.5 dpm, the age would be about 11,640 years and so on.
After 50,000 years, the activity of C-14 in the sample would be extremely low, making it difficult to accurately date the sample.
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