In one extraordinary case from Wiltshire, a human thigh bone had been crafted to make a musical instrument and included as a grave good with the burial of a man found close to Stonehenge. The carefully carved and polished artefact, found with other items, including stone and bronze axes, a bone plate, a tusk, and a unique ceremonial pronged object, are displayed in the Wiltshire Museum. Radiocarbon dating of this musical instrument suggests it belonged to someone this person knew during their lifetime. The team also used microcomputed tomography micro-CT at the Natural History Museum to look at microscopic changes to the bone produced by bacteria, to get an indication of how the body was treated while it was decomposing. Unique Pronged Bronze Object from the Wilsford G58 burial found alongside the human bone musical instrument. There is already evidence people living in Britain during the Bronze Age practiced a range of funerary rites, including primary burial, excarnation, cremation and mummification.
How has radiocarbon dating changed archaeology? | HowStuffWorks
The method was developed by physicist Willard Libby at the University of Chicago who received the Nobel Prize for the discovery in The radioactive isotope 14 C is created in the atmosphere by cosmic radiation and is taken up by plants and animals as long as they live. The C method cannot be used on material more than about 50, years old because of this short half-life. Other isotopes are used by geologists to date older material.
How has radiocarbon dating changed archaeology?
Using radiocarbon dating and CT scanning to study ancient bones, researchers have uncovered for the first time a Bronze Age tradition of retaining and curating human remains as relics over several generations. While the findings, led by the University of Bristol and published in the journal Antiquity , may seem eerie or even gruesome by today's convention, they indicate a tangible way of honouring and remembering known individuals between close communities and generations some 4, years ago. However, they treated and interacted with the dead in ways which are inconceivably macabre to us today," said lead author, Dr Thomas Booth, who carried out the radiocarbon dating work at the university's School of Chemistry.
By: Jessika Toothman. Prior to the development of radiocarbon dating , it was difficult to tell when an archaeological artifact came from. Unless something was obviously attributable to a specific year -- say a dated coin or known piece of artwork -- then whoever discovered it had to do quite a bit of guesstimating to get a proper age for the item.