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NCJ Number: 227839 Add to Shopping cart Find in a Library
Title: Measuring Atomic Bomb-derived 14C Levels in Human Remains to Determine Year of Birth and/or Year of Death
Author(s): Gregory W.L. Hodgins
Date Published: 2009
Page Count: 97
Sponsoring Agency: National Institute of Justice (NIJ)
Washington, DC 20531
National Institute of Justice/NCJRS
Rockville, MD 20849
NCJRS Photocopy Services
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
Grant Number: 2005-IJ-CX-K013
Sale Source: National Institute of Justice/NCJRS
Box 6000
Rockville, MD 20849
United States of America

NCJRS Photocopy Services
Box 6000
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
United States of America
Document: PDF
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Document
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This study determined the utility of using tissue radiocarbon content in order to estimate year-of-birth and year-of-death in human remains for people who lived and died in the past half century.
Abstract: This technique provides such estimates because of a global environmental phenomenon, namely, a uniform worldwide distribution of atmospheric radiocarbon whose level changes measurably on a yearly basis. Between 1955 and 1963, above-ground nuclear testing generated high concentrations of radioactive carbon (14C) in the earth's atmosphere. After a 1964 moratorium on above-ground testing, atmospheric levels of 14C began declining as the radioactivity passed from the atmosphere into the oceans and the biosphere. Virtually every organism living since the 1950s has higher than normal levels of 14C, including humans. The rapid year-to-year change in atmospheric levels of 14C within this time frame, combined with rapid transfer of atmospheric 14C into the food chain via photosynthesis, mean that the distribution of bomb-derived 14C within the humans depends upon birth-year, diet, and the dynamics of tissue replacement within the human body. The radiocarbon content of tissues is fixed at the time of death. Thus, the distribution of 14C in various tissue compartments can potentially be used to determine year-of-birth and/or year-of-death for people who lived and died in the past half century. This study measured 14C levels in postmortem tissues from 36 humans whose birth and death dates were known. A total of 276 measurements were completed on 9 different tissue fractions: tooth enamel, bone apatite, bone collagen, bone lipid, skin collagen, skin lipid, hair, nails, and blood. The method predicted year-of-birth within 1.5 years of actual birth for 8 of 15 individuals; however, inaccuracies increased up to 5 years for people were born in the 1950s. Extensive tables and figures, 28 references, and a listing of venues for the dissemination of research findings
Main Term(s): Criminology
Index Term(s): Death investigations; Forensic sciences; Investigative techniques; NIJ final report; Time of death determination; Victim identification
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