Radiocarbon dating the iceman
An age could be estimated by measuring the amount of carbon-14 present in the sample and comparing this against an internationally used reference standard.The impact of the radiocarbon dating technique on modern man has made it one of the most significant discoveries of the 20th century.The amount of carbon-14 in the air has stayed the same for thousands of years.There is a small amount of radioactive carbon-14 in all living organisms because it enters the food chain.Materials that originally came from living things, such as wood and natural fibres, can be dated by measuring the amount of carbon-14 they contain.For example, in 1991, two hikers discovered a mummified man, preserved for centuries in the ice on an alpine mountain.No other scientific method has managed to revolutionize man’s understanding not only of his present but also of events that already happened thousands of years ago.Archaeology and other human sciences use radiocarbon dating to prove or disprove theories.
The results showed that Ötzi died over 5000 years ago, sometime between 33 BC. It is found in the air in carbon dioxide molecules.
By knowing how much carbon 14 is left in a sample, the age of the organism when it died can be known.
It must be noted though that radiocarbon dating results indicate when the organism was alive but not when a material from that organism was used.
When the stocks of Oxalic Acid I were almost fully consumed, another standard was made from a crop of 1977 French beet molasses.
The new standard, Oxalic Acid II, was proven to have only a slight difference with Oxalic Acid I in terms of radiocarbon content.