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Beta Analytic Q&A: Can Sand be Dated?

June 24, 2013

Just like sediment, it is better to date the macrofossils found in sand. In the absence of macrofossils, sand can be dated if there is an organic material on the surface of the sand. If there is enough carbon present in the organic coating, a radiocarbon date can be obtained.

If the sand is dark due to its mineral composition, then radiocarbon dating would likely not be successful.

Check the Presence of Organic Materials in Sand

One test you could perform to check if the sand has an organic material is to take a few grams (a small pinch) of the sand and place it into a beaker or glass of water then agitate it.

If the water remains mostly clear, then there is probably little chance of getting a radiocarbon date. If the water turns very cloudy or dark, there may be sufficient organic materials present that could be rinsed off the sand grains and processed for dating.

Beta Radiocarbon Dating Ad Bone Samples