Radiocarbon dating: radioactive carbon decays to nitrogen with a half-life of 5730 years. In dead material, the decayed 14C is not replaced and its concentration in the object decreases slowly. To obtain a truly absolute chronology, corrections must be made, provided by measurements on samples of know age. The most suitable types of sample for radiocarbon dating are charcoal and well-preserved wood, although leather, cloth, paper, peat, shell and bone can also be used. Because of the somewhat short half-life of 14C, radiocarbon dating is not applicable to samples with ages greater than about 50,000 years, because the remaining concentration would be too small for accurate measurement.

Thermoluminescence dating: this method is associated with the effect of the high energy radiation emitted as a result of the decay or radioactive impurities. Because of the half-lives of 238U, 232nd, and 40K are very long, their concentrations in the object, and hence the radiation dose they provide per year, have remained fairly constant. The most suitable type of sample for thermoluminescence dating is pottery, though the date gotten will be for the last time the object was fired. Application of this method of age determination is limited to those periods of pottery and fired clay availability ( from about 6000 BC to the present). 


Radiocarbon dating

Beta Analytic, Inc.
University Branch
4985 S.W. 74th Court
Miami, FL 33155
(305) 667-5167
FAX (305) 663-0964

Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry
PO Box 808, L-397
Livermore, CA 94550

Columbia University
Geochemistry Department
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Palisades, NY 10964
(914) 365-8505
FAX (914) 365-8155

11822 North Creek Parkway North
Suite 107
Bothell, WA 98011
(425) 481-8122

Geochron Laboratories
A division of Krueger Enterprises, Inc.
711 Concord Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 876-3691
FAX (617) 661-0148

International Chemical Analysis, Inc.
11110 W. Oakland Park Blvd. #199
Sunrise, FL 33351
(786) 205-5269
Radiocarbon dating

Illinois State Geological Survey
Isotope Geochemistry Laboratory
Geochemistry Section
615 East Peabody Drive
Urbana, IL 61820
(217) 333-9083
FAX (217) 244-7004

Purdue University
Purdue Rare Isotope Measurement Laboratory
1396 Physics Building
West Lafayette, IN 47907-1396
(317) 494-6516
FAX (317) 494-0706

Texas A&M University
Department of Oceanography
College Station, TX 77843
(409) 845-3651

United States Geological Survey
National Center, 971
Reston, VA 22092
(703) 648-5350
FAX (703) 648-5310

University of California
Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics
Archaeology Department
Los Angeles, CA 90024
(310) 825-4169
FAX (310) 206-3051

University of California, Irvine
Department of Earth Science
Radiocarbon Laboratory
PSRF 207
Irvine, CA 92717
(909) 725-2116
FAX (909) 725-3256

University of Georgia
Center for Applied Isotope Studies
120 Riverbend Road
Athens, GA 30602-4702
(706) 542-1395
FAX (706) 542-6106

University of Miami
Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
Miami, FL 33149
(305) 361-4100
FAX (305) 361-4112

University of Wisconsin - Madison
Center for Climatic Research
1225 West Dayton Street
Madison, WI 53706
(608) 262-7328
FAX (608) 262-5964

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
McLean Laboratory
National Ocean Sciences AMS Facility
Woods Hole, MA 002543
(508) 457-2000x2585
FAX (508) 457-2183

Thermoluminescence dating

Daybreak Nuclear & Medical Systems Inc.
50 Denison Drive
Guilford, CT 06437
(203) 453-3299

University of Hawai'i
Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology
2525 Correa Road
Honolulu, HI 96822
(808) 956-8761
FAX (808) 956-3188

Other dating and analysis

American Council of Independent Laboratories
1629 K Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 887-5872
FAX (202)887-0021
Directory of independent testing, research and inspection laboratories.

Integrated Paper Services, Inc.
101 West Edison Avenue, Suite 250
Appleton, WI 54915
(920) 749-3040
FAX (920) 749-3046
Testing and analysis for the pulp, paper, and allied industries.


Radiocarbon WEB-info
Provides a large international listing of laboratories that do radiocarbon dating; information on radiocarbon dating; publications and references; and educational materials.

Radiocarbon, vol. 36, no. 3, 1994, pp. 413-440 has a large international listing of laboratories that do radiocarbon dating.

Aitken, M.J. 1985. Thermoluminescence dating, London; Orlando: Academic Press, xi, 359 p.

Bortolot, Victor J. 1994. "Real or Fake? Authentication by thermoluminescence," World of Tribal Arts, 1 (4): 81-83.

Bowman, Sheridan. Radiocarbon Dating, 1990, Berkeley: University of California Press, 64 p.

Brothwell, Don and Eric Higgs, eds. 1969. Science in Archaeology: A Survey of Progress and Research, 2nd edition, London: Thames & Hudson, 720 p.

Burr, G. S. 2007. Radiocarbon Dating/Causes of Temporal Variations. In Encyclopedia of Quaternary Science, ed. Scott A. Elias, 2931-2941. Elsevier B.V.

Gale, S. J. 2009. Dating the recent past. Quaternary Geochronology, 4(5): 374-377.

Geyh, Mebus A. 1990. Absolute Age Determination: Physical and Chemical Dating Methods and Their Application, Berlin; New York: Springer-Verlag, xi, 503 p.

Gibbs, Max, Andrew Swales, and Greg Olsen. 2012. Suess effect on biomarkers used to determine sediment provenance from land-use changes. FAO/IAEA International Symposium on Managing Soils for Food Security and Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation, Vienna, Austria 23-27 July 2012

Hua, Quan. 2009. Radiocarbon: A chronological tool for the recent past. Quaternary Geochronology 4(5): 378-390.

Leute, Ulrich. 1987. Archaeometry: An Introduction to Physical Methods in Archaeology and the History of Art, Weinheim;New York: VCH, 176 p.

Levin, Ingeborg, Joachim Schuchard, Bernd Kromer, and K.O. Munnich. 1989. The Continental European Suess Effect. Radiocarbon 31(3): 431-440.

Polach, Dilette. 1988. Radiocarbon dating literature: the first 21 years, 1947-1968, London; San Diego: Avademic Press, x, 370 p.

Reimer, P.J. and R.W. Reimer. 2007. Calibration. In Encyclopedia of Quaternary Science, issue 1958, 2941-2950.

Reimer, Paula. 2013. IntCal13 and Marine13 Radiocarbon Age Calibration Curves 0–50,000 Years cal BP. Radiocarbon 55, no. 4: 1869-1887.

Scott, E M. 2005. Sources of Error: The Nature of Measurement. Stochastic Models: 2918-2923.

Suess, H.E. 1955. Radiocarbon Concentration in Modern Wood. Science, 122(3166): 415-417.

Taylor, R.E.1987. Radiocarbon dating: an archaeological perspective, Orlando: Academic Press, xii, 212 p.

Tite, M.S.1972. Methods of Physical Examination in Archaeology, London;New York: Seminar Press, 389 p.

Wood, Rachel. 2015. From revolution to convention: The past, present and future of radiocarbon dating. Journal of Archaeological Science 56: 61-72.

This list is not all-inclusive.

The Smithsonian Institution, Museum Conservation Institute (MCI), gives no endorsements for any products, materials or services mentioned in this pamphlet and is not responsible for problems from their use or misuse. MCI does not make any warranty, expressed or implied; does not assume any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information or process disclosed; nor represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. If any organizations or other pertinent information has been inadvertently excluded please contact MCI.

Compiled by: Ann N'Gadi
Special Thanks to: Robert M. Organ; Noreen Tuross; Pam Vandiver
Created: May 1996
Updated: April 2022; May 2018; March 2004; 2022