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date of organic material - but an approximate age, usually within a range of a few years either way.

Typically (6): The above list is not exhaustive; most organic material is suitable so long as it is of sufficient age and has not mineralised - dinosaur bones are out as they no longer have any carbon left.

Over the past six decades, the amount of radiocarbon in people or their remains depends heavily on when they were born or, more precisely, when their tissues were formed.

Forensic anthropologists at The University of Arizona took advantage of this fact in a recent study funded by NIJ.

The dating process is always designed to try to extract the carbon from a sample which is most representative of the original organism.

In general it is always better to date a properly identified single entity (such as a cereal grain or an identified bone) rather than a mixture of unidentified organic remains.

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Now, new applications for the technique are emerging in forensics, thanks to research funded by NIJ and other organizations.

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