However, more testing is needed to confirm that belief. 269, March 2012NCJ 237722 Philip Bulman is a writer and editor at NIJ.
The researchers wanted to find out if they could identify a person's year of birth or year of death using precise measurements of carbon-14 levels in different post-mortem tissues.
They measured carbon-14 levels in various tissues from 36 humans whose birth and death dates were known.
Thus, pupal case radiocarbon content would serve as a decay-resistant proxy for the tissues, yielding the year of death.
The spike in atmospheric carbon-14 levels during the 1950s and early 1960s makes this approach possible, but it also means it will have a limited period of utility because the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere is slowly returning to its natural level.
It is naturally unstable and so it will spontaneously decay back into N-14 after a period of time.
It takes about 5,730 years for half of a sample of radiocarbon to decay back into nitrogen.Unlike tooth enamel, soft tissues are constantly being made and remade during life.Thus, their radiocarbon levels mirror those in the changing environment.The researchers found that if they assumed tooth enamel radiocarbon content to be determined by the atmospheric level at the time the tooth was formed, then they could deduce the year of birth.They found that for teeth formed after 1965, enamel radiocarbon content predicted year of birth within 1.5 years.Archaeologists have long used carbon-14 dating (also known as radiocarbon dating) to estimate the age of certain objects.