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The small pieces of bone were combusted to produce carbon dioxide which was then put through a mass spectrometer.

Testing two pieces each at two different facilities should provide consistent results – and indeed it did. The proportion of C-14 in the atmosphere, and hence in living things, is not constant but varies over the centuries, and it also varies between the atmosphere and the oceans.

C-12 and C-13 are stable but C-14 decays at a known rate, with a half-life of 5,568 years.

University of Leicester archaeologists took four small samples from one of the ribs of the Greyfriars skeleton and sent them to two specialist units with the facilities to analyse them: the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC) at the University of Glasgow, and the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, part of the University of Oxford’s Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art.

Radioactive Decay to other Elements When isotopes decay they can lose some of their atomic particles (i.e.