One of the basic assumptions in carbon-14 dating is that the sample being analyzed has undergone only radioactive decay and has remained unaltered by any other process over the years since it ceased interaction with the biosphere.
This assumption, however, is rarely true. The archaeological artifacts and geological specimens sent to labs for radiocarbon dating are usually found embedded or buried with other materials that may have affected their radiocarbon content. Any carbon-containing material that affects the carbon 14 content of any given sample is therefore a contaminant.
Important Note on Pretreatment – It is important to understand the pretreatments which are going to be applied to samples since they directly affect the final result. You are welcome to contact us to discuss the pretreatment or request that we contact you after the pretreatment (and prior to dating).
Materials such as charcoal, wood, peat, and textiles typically undergo the acid-alkali-acid (AAA) method before radiocarbon dating. Learn more
Materials such as sediments and soils typically undergo acid washes (no alkali) before radiocarbon dating. Learn More
Materials such as shells and other materials where a date on the inorganic carbon (carbonate) is to be done typically undergo acid etching before pretreatment. Learn More