Sunday, September 8, 2019

Isotopes in archeology Essay Example | Topics and Well Written Essays - 1250 words

Isotopes in archeology - Essay Example Isotopes are classified into two groups, stable or unstable isotopes, stable isotopes are considered such because of the non-dynamic nature of their proton neutron relationship they do not disintegrate or decay, while unstable isotopes, on the other hand, are known as radioactive isotopes. They are characterized by an unstable proton-neutron combination, in the process of decaying; they emit various types of radiation such as gamma, beta, and alpha, depending on the creation process, ranging from Cosmogenic, to radioactive isotopes. Both classes of isotopes have a wide range of uses in various disciplines such as medicine, agriculture, and geology just to mention a few. This paper focuses on the uses of isotopes in archeology and examines the various uses of isotopes in archeological research, their advantages disadvantages, and alternative techniques. Radio carbon dating One of the most essential functions or radioisotopes is in the determination of the age of archeological especial ly the remains of once living organism which could have died thousands of years ago. This has been used to back up written and historical data in a range of disciplines such as history, evolution and religion. ... The archeologists hence measure the ratio of carbon in the organisms and compare it to the radioactivity of carbon 14 left in the organism (Van der Merwe, 1982). In this way, scientists have been able to determine, and with considerable success, the ages of many plants and animal matter that have been excavated in archeological sites. The main advantage of carbon 14 dating is that is economical, and when done properly after considering all the factors involved, it can produce results that are very accurate. However, it has got some limitations in that if the subject being aged has been in existence for over 50,000 years, it begins to lose accuracy since the carbon isotopes become too small for effective measurement. Besides, environmental changes due to natural or man-made courses such as atomic bombs and nuclear testing has varied the amounts of carbon in the atmosphere making it difficult to come up with accurate results (Van der Merwe, 1982). A new method is, however, being develo ped AMS (accelerator mass spectrometry) to counterman these short comings since it can derive more accurate dates from smaller samples of carbon for radio carbon dating. Determination of Geological location Using Strontium (Sr), which is an isotope found in human bones, archeologists can determine the geographical history of humans i.e. where past civilizations have been, their migration and settlement pasts and patterns can be deduced form these isotopes (Bentley, 2006). The strontium isotopes are ideal for this since they act like geochemical signatures, the body takes up the isotopes from the soil through the consumption of plant or animals which have consumed the same plants. The strontium hence embeds itself into the local food chain and substitutes some of calcium in the

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