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Carbon-14 Dating

National Museum of Denmark's carbon-14 dating equipment used for the first readings
National Museum of Denmark's
carbon-14 dating equipment used for
the first readings. Big picture
When at the discovery in 1950 the police saw the Tollund Man they realized right away that he was from prehistoric times, but they were not able to date him more precisely. When the specialists examined his last meal, they realized he had lived around the time of the birth of Christ. The kind of barley and a number of the other seeds that were in his last meal were very common around that time.

A few years after the discovery of the Tollund Man the scientists started using nuclear physics to date organic objects: wood, charcoal, bones, leather and similar objects. By the use of a Geiger counter they were able to measure the amount of radioactive carbon-14 that was left in the organic material.

While human beings - and other organisms - are alive they absorb carbon. Carbon comes in carbon-12, carbon-13 and carbon-14 where the latter is radioactive. When the organism dies, like the Tollund Man, the carbon-14 slowly disappears.

Today the dating process is done in a nuclear accelerator
Today the dating process is done in
a nuclear accelerator. Big picture
A small sample the size of a thumbnail was taken from the Tollund Man's body and used as the basis for the readings. Based on that it was possible to calculate that he died approximately 2,400 years ago.

At the dating laboratory of the National Museum of Denmark, where the carbon-14 datings are done, the scientists were also able to conclude that the Tollund Man wasn't very fond of eating fish, because if he had been there would have been more carbon-13 in his body. Your main source of carbon-13 is marine animals (fish, seals and web-footed birds).

In order to reach the most precise dating of the Tollund Man, several tests were done and as a result of that we are able to say with great certainty that he was hanged 3-400 years before the birth of Christ.

 Related Stories
Excavation at the National Museum of Denmark

Excavation at the National Museum of Denmark
After the box containing the Tollund Man had been opened carefully...

Autopsy and X-rays
A forensic examiner examined him as if he was the victim of a murder...

The finger-prints were well-preserved and are among the oldest in the world...

Examination of the stomach contents
The alimentary canal, which is the stomach and the intestines, was removed...

Latest research: CT-scanning
The latest technology can reveal secrets and provide us with new information...

Preservation of the Tollund Man
When the Tollund Man was discovered in 1950, the Danish scientists had never before been faced with the task of preserving a bog body...

  More Info
When did he die?
The carbon-14 dating method has been used several times...

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