Blogs » Neurognosis » Dating with Plasma and Fossil Hominids


Not too long ago my blog had an exchange regarding evolution and creationism and much of the discourse turned to the validity of radiometric dating techniques. The primary focus was upon one technique which utilizes the unstable isotope carbon-14 or often called radiocarbon. For many decades scientists have employed and refined the use of this isotope to date artifacts and recent remains. One particular problem when dating some artifacts is that the process requires the excision of a part of the object to be dated and putting it through a destructive process to analyze the isotopic ratio. Some artifacts may be too fragile or may simply be too unique to risk damage. This has limited the dating of many pieces. Well, according to Marvin Rowe, a professor emeritus at Texas A&M in College Station, this is no longer a problem. He and his team have developed a technique which utilizes plasma to slowly oxidize the surface of a sample but does no damage to the sample itself. The team reported using 20 different samples which jived with dates derived from the conventional radiocarbon method at the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society. The new technique sounds interesting and it will be great to read a journal article about it when published.

From one area of ancient specimens to another - a team at the Max Planck Institute claims to have sequenced mtDNA from a finger bone found in Siberia which is supposedly from a previously unknown hominid that lived approximately 48,000 to 30,000 years ago and would place it wandering around during the same time period with anatomically modern humans and Neandtherthals. The debate is now on as to which hominid species it is linked to - Homo erectus? Homo heidelbergensis? I suppose only further research will tell.