Radiocarbon dating

In the Klaus-Tschira laboratory for scientific dating we provide radiocarbon dating services using the AMS technique on small sample sizes. We us a MICADAS-type compact AMS spectrometer, built by ETH Zurich.

Radiocarbon dating

Radiocarbon dating is well established as an universal and accurate dating tool in archaeology and geo-sciences. The datable age span covers historic times back to 50.000 years.

All organic material recovered in archaeological context can be dated, such as wood, charcoal, bone, antler, detritus, macro fossils, textiles, hair and teeth. For cellulose-rich material we request ca. 100 milligram of sample material. For bone we ask for 0.5 to 1 gram.

From bone samples we extract collagen and remove contamination by ultrafiltration.

Holocene samples (younger than 10.000 years) are date to a precision of ca. 3 permille (±25..30 years at 1 sigma). For older samples the error increases.

We also date carbonates (mollusks, snails, speleothemes, groundwater). Here the error is dominated by the reservoir correction, which must be provided by independent evidence.

The dating report includes t3419-KTL-Probenaufbereitung-Knochenhe uncalibrated 14C age, calibrated ranges (1 and 2 sigma) and calibration graphs, using OxCal. For bones we report %carbon, C:N ratio and collagen preservation as additional quality criteria. For sample series structured by relative information (e.g. stratigraphy, tree-ring sequences) we can perform Baysean analysis using the model concepts of Oxcal.

Samples grown between 1680 AD and 1945 AD cannot be dated by radiocarbon in a straightforward way, because in this time interval a radiocarbon age range may correspond to several calibrated rangescaused by strong 14C production changes by solar magnetic variability.

Samples grown after 1950 AD will contain man-made radiocarbon released during the nuclear weapons testing. Here dating is possible with high resolution (a few years) in special cases, e.g. for authenticity tests or forensic issues.

14C as tracer of fossil carbon

Fossil carbon does not contain 14C any more, due to radioactive decay. Therefore 14C analyses are an ideal tool to determine quantitatively traces of fossil carbon in carbonaceous material, e.g.  bio-fuels, base components for cosmetic products and solid fuels subject to carbon emission trading.

We are the central radiocarbon facility in the European ICOS project (Integrated Carbon Observation System).

Sample submission

We provide an Excel template for sample submission (download here) Please mail this template to

Dating of bones and teeth requires 1 g (dry weight) at least, dating of wood and charcoal  100 mg (dry weight) at least. If your sample material is less than needed, please contact Dr. Ronny Friedrich or Susanne Lindauer before you submit the samples.

Your contact persons:

Dr. Ronny Friedrich