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Sample Handling and Container Recommendations

Sample Handling

Carbonates – Direct handling of carbonate samples will not affect the results. Since the CaCO3 portion is used for the radiocarbon analysis, contamination from hand oils and other organic matter is not relevant. Only the presence of other carbonates will affect the carbon dating results.

Organic Material – Organic samples for radiocarbon dating should not be handled with bare hands because your body oils will contaminate the sample. Plastic glove contact is fine. Washing the sample in potable water is also fine (distilled water is recommended). Avoid contact with paper.

Extraneous Matrix – Prices presume samples submitted are in a concentrated form. There is no need to remove minimal attached sediments and adhering organics. However, loose sediments in large quantities will incur supplemental fees so it is recommended you remove the bulk of extraneous matrix. One-time use of the type of screening material available at the hardware store for porches is fine. The screen should be rinsed first to remove dust. When using laboratory screens, ensure they are completely clean prior to use with another sample.

Wet vs. Dry Samples – There is no need to dry the sample. However, knowing the dry weight will better allow you to estimate the amount of material to send. Sending wet samples for carbon dating is fine. The lab starts the radiocarbon analyses immediately upon arrival of the sample, so moisture will not induce contamination. If you want to dry your samples, heating at 90°C to 100°C for 4-24 hours is recommended.


Recommended Sample Containers and Packaging

Note: Put only one sample per Ziplock bag to avoid mix-ups during transport.

Large Samples – Place directly into Ziplock bags

Examples: Antlers, Bones, Charcoal, Coral, Dung, Gyttja, Leather, Peat, Plants, Pottery, Sediment, Shells, Teeth, Textiles, Wood

Small/Fine Samples – Wrap these samples in aluminum foil to contain them in a pouch before putting them inside a labeled Ziplock bag.

Examples: Extracted Collagen, Fish Otoliths, Hair, Insect (chitin), Seeds, Grains

Very Small Samples – Use vials with screw tops, microcentrifuge tubes, or counting slides before putting them inside a labeled Ziplock bag.

Examples: Forams, Ostracods, Phytoliths, Pollen

Liquids – Use plastic bottle (HDPE, LDPE, PP) wherever possible. If glass is your only option, please ship them with enough packing so they will not break. We strongly recommend plastic bottles over glass bottles.


Use Boxes instead of Envelopes

For Solids – We highly recommend sending your samples in small boxes whenever possible (instead of using envelopes) to protect the physical integrity of the samples during shipment. The equipment used by postal services typically run envelopes through rollers during the automated sorting process, which may crush small fragments and powder them.

For Liquids – Please put the bottles inside a plastic bag and seal the bag with a zip-tie or duct tape. If any of the bottles leak during shipment, the water will not weaken the cardboard box.