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“Unless there’s a road or something, we don’t have any information at all.
This is one of the very, very few sites in Mora County that have been excavated,” she said of the site reported by the state Department of Transportation.
“If the ink is old, then it’s real.” Rowe is probably the world’s foremost authority on radiocarbon rock art dating.
That machine he built, and what it’s used for, helped Rowe win the prestigious Fryxell Award for Interdisciplinary Research from the Society of American Archeology two years ago.
“But we now have the ability to date incredibly small amounts of carbon – 40-100 millionths of a gram – and that is the real revolutionary aspect of this.
And the ancillary part of that is it’s non-destructive.” That’s important to Nancy Akins, a research associate with the Office of Archaeological Studies, who in February was having a bison tooth and sheep bone tested by “Marvin’s Machine.” The items were excavated from the site of a rock shelter in Coyote Canyon north of Mora.
A piece of an organic object – a bone fragment or weaving, for example – is washed with acid at high temperature to remove impurities and then burned in a chamber.
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.