Recommended Sample Sizes

The following recommendations are not requirements, they are general guidelines. We can analyze extremely small amounts of carbon in our Accelerator Mass Spectrometers (AMS). 

For samples with initial sizes less than those listed, please contact us prior to sending to discuss possible limitations of the dating analyses.

Individual sample size requirements vary. We always recommend that you choose the best samples for your research objectives. If you are concerned that your samples are too small then please contact us for advice.


The quantities listed below assume the material is dry and free of adhering/associated matrix. This is especially critical to consider when sending sample sizes at or near the minimum recommended size range.

Click the material name to view additional charges (if any), sample selection, and lab pretreatment procedures.

Material Type AMS Dating
Recommended Sample Size 
Analyses Included
with C14 Dating
(if sample size permits)
Antler 1-4 grams δ13C, δ15N
Bones (charred)
Bone fragments must be completely charred inside and out.
20-100 milligrams

δ13C
Bones (cremated)
Bone fragments must have a white, chalk-like coloration inside and out; no black or blue-gray mottling colorations present.

200 milligrams – 4 grams

δ13C, δ18O
Bones (uncharred) 500 milligrams – 4 grams δ13C + δ15N, %C, %N, and
C:N ratio
Charcoal 5-100 milligrams δ13C
Charcoal that may have  limitations in pretreatment 2-4 milligrams δ13C
DOC in Freshwater 1 L δ13C
Dung 5-100 milligrams δ13C
Fish Otolith 5-20 milligrams δ13C, δ18O
Forams (pre-extracted/sorted)
Lab provides some pretreatment
8 milligrams or greater δ13C, δ18O
Forams (pre-extracted/sorted)
NO lab pretreatment provided
3-7 milligrams δ13C, δ18O may not be possible
Hair 20-100 milligrams δ13C
Insect (chitin) 10-50 milligrams δ13C
Leather 50-100 milligrams δ13C
Organic Sediment, Gyttja, Silty Peat  1-10 grams
(approximate dry weight)
δ13C
Peat (fibrous) 3-100 milligrams δ13C
Phytoliths (extracted) 300 milligrams δ13C
Plants and Seeds 3-100 milligrams δ13C
Pollen (extracted)
Completely neutral pH, dry and pretreated to remove carbonates
5-15 milligrams  δ13C
Pottery (charred food residue) 10-100 milligrams δ13C
Pteropods 5-100 milligrams δ13C, δ18O
Shell, Coral, CaCO3
Lab provides pretreatment
7-100 milligrams δ13C, δ18O
Shell, Coral, CaCO3
NO lab pretreatment provided
3-6.5 milligrams  δ13C, δ18O may not be possible
Teeth (full canine, incisor, or molar with roots attached) 1-2 teeth δ13C, δ15N
Textile 20-100 milligrams δ13C
Water DIC as SrCO3 50 milligrams δ13C
Water for DIC extraction 250 milliliters-1 liter δ13C, δ18O, δ2H
Wood 3-100 milligrams,
50-100 milligrams with cellulose extraction
δ13C

Pretreatment – It is important to understand the pretreatments that are going to be applied to samples since they directly affect the final result. If your samples are extremely small or fragile, we should discuss your pretreatment options prior to applying them to avoid excessive reduction in sample size. We also welcome your requests to contact you after the pretreatment to discuss your options for AMS dating.

Beta Analytic has removed cancellation and partial analysis fees (except solvent/cellulose extraction) for samples that are too small or do not provide adequate carbon for AMS dating.

Note – Fees are inclusive of d13C measurements using an isotope ratio mass spectrometer (IRMS), quality assurance reports, calendar calibration when applicable, and 24/7 web access to past results and pending analyses. 

Beta Analytic Sample Submission

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Recommended Packaging

Place large samples for radiocarbon analysis directly into ziplock bags. The bags will not contaminate the sample. Small samples or those with fine particles should be wrapped in aluminum foil to contain them in a pouch. Place each foil-wrapped pouch into a labeled ziplock bag.

Beta Analytic carbon dating samples packing recommendation

NOTE: Always handle ONLY one sample at a time. Begin and end the packaging process for each sample prior to beginning the next. This will best ensure mix-ups are avoided during packaging of samples.

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, and the small amount of pressure exerted during this process is enough to crush small fragments and powder them.

Shipping Recommendations

Payment Terms

Sample Handling Advice

Page last updated: November 2023