Carbon dating machine
“If the ink is old, then it’s real.” Rowe is probably the world’s foremost authority on radiocarbon rock art dating.
He says much of what he learned was by trial and error.
The tooth was found at a site near Coyote Creek north of Mora.
The machine is used to date artifacts without damaging to the sample.
In fact, the first machine he and his Texas A&M colleagues built caught fire and was destroyed. “Marvin has learned so much from the previous two (machines) about their construction and their use that when we offered him space and the opportunity to build one here, it was sort of like he was able to do all the things he sort of wanted to do, but couldn’t under the circumstances of the research at Texas A&M,” said Blinman.
Currently, there are only three LEPRS machines in existence – one in Michigan and one in Arkansas, both procured by former students of Rowe – but the one at the lab located at the New Mexico Office of Archeological Studies off N. Traditional carbon dating estimates age based on content of carbon-14 (C-14), a naturally occurring, radioactive form of carbon, and requires destruction of an object.
Scientists at the New Mexico Office of Archaeological Studies use a Low Energy Plasma Radiocarbon Sampling device on a sample of gelatin at its lab near Santa Fe.
The machine is used to date artifacts by doing minimal damage to the sample.
The carbon dioxide gas produced is run through an accelerator mass spectrometer, which measures the decay of radioactive carbon 14 – the more the carbon 14 has decayed, the older the object is.Plasmas are used in television displays and in florescent lights, which use electricity to excite gas and create glowing plasma.In Rowe’s non-destructive method, an entire artifact goes into in a vacuum chamber with a plasma.Normal carbon-dating can’t date the ink because it requires too large a sample.“We can flake off a piece” and date it, Blinman said.Marvin Rowe, a scientist at the New Mexico Office of Archaeological Studies, adjusts the Low Energy Plasma Radiocarbon Sampling device he built to date artifacts with minimal damage.(Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal) “We call the process Low Energy Plasma Radiocarbon Sampling,” said New Mexico’s state archeologist Eric Blinman, who credits Rowe with inventing the process.Rock art pigments don’t have that much carbon in them.But “Marvin’s Machine” can date material 100 millionths of a gram or less.Comparisons are also made with the amounts of C-14 expected to have existed in the atmosphere in the past.Blinman explained that Rowe’s alternative process is based on plasmas – ionized gas made up of groups of positively and negatively charged particles, and one of the four fundamental states of matter, alongside solid, liquid and gas.