Carbon dating art forgery

Plants and animals naturally incorporate both the abundant C-12 isotope and the much rarer radiocarbon isotope into their tissues in about the same proportions as the two occur in the atmosphere during their lifetimes.When a creature dies, it ceases to consume more radiocarbon while the C-14 already in its body continues to decay back into nitrogen.Desmond Clark (1979:7) observed that without radiocarbon dating "we would still be foundering in a sea of imprecisions sometime bred of inspired guesswork but more often of imaginative speculation." And as Colin Renfrew (1973) aptly noted over 30 years ago, the "Radiocarbon Revolution" transformed how archaeologists could interpret the past and track cultural changes through a period in human history where we see among other things the massive migration of peoples settling virtually every major region of the world, the transition from hunting and gathering to more intensive forms of food production, and the rise of city-states.However, as with any dating technique there are limits to the kinds of things that can be satisfactorily dated, levels of precision and accuracy, age range constraints, and different levels of susceptibility to contamination.Ultraviolet light Ultraviolet light is one of the most used and useful tools for authentication and fake detection.

C-12 is by far the most common isotope, while only about one in a trillion carbon atoms is C-14.Different materials fluoresce in difference brightnesses and colors.The quality of the fluorescence originates at the atomic level of the material.Though science has its limitations in authentication, it has long been used to identify fakes and forgeries of everything from priceless paintings to baseball cards, Ming vases to advertising posters.This column looks at some of the more interesting and important methods and how they are used.

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