Atmospheric radiocarbon concentrations are reflected in the isotopic carbon content of new plant growth.New leaves are produced in weeks, whereas larger fruit and vegetables form over a period of a few months.In an ongoing Swedish homicide case where the victim's identity remains unknown, we illustrate how both methodologies can be combined to provide important information as to the year of birth of the deceased, the estimated age of the person at the time of death, and hence the estimated date of death.
The date of formation of a tissue can be estimated from the bomb curve by considering these lags in incorporation and relating the C incorporation from the atmosphere to the body (12).
Teeth from Swedish individuals with a known date of birth and chronological age were analyzed using both aspartic acid racemization of dentin and radiocarbon analysis of enamel.
When the deceased date of death is also known, chronological age can be determined.
Radiocarbon dating of dental enamel has recently been used with very high precision to determine the date of birth of identified and unidentified individuals (3, 4).
Herbivores lag the atmosphere slightly because their primary carbon source is removed from the atmosphere in weeks to months.
Omnivores and carnivores lag the atmosphere further because their carbon sources are another step removed.
Forty-four teeth from 41 individuals were analyzed using aspartic acid racemization analysis of tooth crown dentin or radiocarbon analysis of enamel, and 10 of these were split and subjected to both radiocarbon and racemization analysis.
Combined analysis showed that the two methods correlated well ( The identification of human bodies, where there are no clues as to the identity from circumstantial data, poses a difficult problem to the investigator.
Age estimation in children and adolescents often depends on morphological methods, such as radiological examination of skeletal and dental development.
In adults, however, age estimation based on these methods is much less accurate.
Age determination of unknown human bodies is important in the setting of a crime investigation or a mass disaster because the age at death, birth date, and year of death as well as gender can guide investigators to the correct identity among a large number of possible matches.