The small pieces of bone were combusted to produce carbon dioxide which was then put through a mass spectrometer.
Testing two pieces each at two different facilities should provide consistent results – and indeed it did. The proportion of C-14 in the atmosphere, and hence in living things, is not constant but varies over the centuries, and it also varies between the atmosphere and the oceans.
It’s difficult to pinpoint the age of the man when he died thanks to the lack of precision in modern methods.
Archaeologists have long used carbon-14 dating (also known as radiocarbon dating) to estimate the age of certain objects.
Traditional radiocarbon dating is applied to organic remains between 500 and 50,000 years old and exploits the fact that trace amounts of radioactive carbon are found in the natural environment.
But if they are earlier than 1485, then they can’t be Richard’s remains.
Radiocarbon dating is a commonly used technique which relies on the fact that, although 99% of carbon atoms have six protons and six neutrons (carbon-12), about 1% have an extra neutron (carbon-13) and about one atom in a trillion has two extra neutrons (carbon-14).
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