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How Can Carbon Sample Be Contaminated?

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Posted by Alexander on July 10, 2001 17:49:43 UTC

Suppose, you have carbon-containing piece of tissue which came from wrapping of Egyptian mummy.

How in the world that tissue can be new carbon-contaminated? The tissue is dead, so no new organic molecules in the fiber were created in it (out of environmental CO2) since cotton was cut 5 thousand years ago - it only can decompose back to CO2, losing both C12 and C14 in equal rates. Thus, keepeng same ratio C14/C12 (if no radioactive decay of C14 takes place). But because it does take place, this ratio is slowly decreasing - about 2 times each 5600 years.

So, how can tissue carbon be replaced (contaminated) with more recent (or more old) mixture of C12/C14 ?

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