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Why Maize is a Good Material for Radiocarbon Dating

Maize is a short-lived plant, with a typical life cycle of 100-150 days. Thus, it makes a good candidate for radiocarbon dating as it represents a distinct period of time. Maize can be found in many different forms in the archaeological record, depending on the local context – for example, maize kernels, maize cob fragments or as food residue within pottery. If the maize is in the form of food residue, it is possible that it may contain additional food types and thus may not just represent the maize.

Radiocarbon Dating Maize

recommended sample size Sample size recommended 
  • 3-100 milligrams (AMS dating)
    Note: We recommend sending large sample sizes if the maize has a significant amount of adhering sediment or other materials that need to be removed prior to dating. Please contact us before submitting these samples.

carbon dating services Carbon Dating Services
  • AMS Standard – results are reported in 14 business days or less
    AMS Priority – 6 business days or less
    AMS Time Guide – 2-3 business days

analyses included Recommended container
  • Wrap maize in aluminum foil to contain them in a pouch before putting them inside a labeled Ziplock bag. Please send your samples in small boxes instead of envelopes  to protect the samples from being crushed during shipment.

Radiocarbon Dating Cost

Archaeological sample maize

To obtain an estimate or formal quotation, please complete this form with details on the paying institution’s billing address, the number of samples you plan to analyze, and the AMS service you’ve selected (Standard, Priority or Time Guide). 

Fees are inclusive of quality assurance reports, calendar calibration when applicable, and 24/7 web access to past results and pending analyses. 


It is important to understand the pretreatment applied to samples since they directly affect the final result. When it comes to small samples like maize, our major consideration is always our ability to fully pretreat secondary carbon contamination.

It’s difficult to know exactly how much material the lab will need from any given sample. Even “dry weight” is usually relative. It’s not uncommon for the lab to see a 15% reduction in weight just by putting a dry sample in an oven overnight at 110ºC. Usually after pretreatment, the sample size is reduced by 30-70% depending on many factors relating to the species type, preservation, moisture content, etc.

Photo Credit: JuanaFuertes, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


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This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 23rd, 2023 and is filed under Radiocarbon Dating .