You are here:

Archaeology/Wood Preservation


QUESTION: Hi me again, alright all excavation has been completed except for one item and that is to wait for awhile, it will not deteriorate because it is two stone boxes. My question is on all of the tests that you described for wood, coins, velum, ink, carbon14 how long will it take for results to start to come in? Thanks for your help

ANSWER: Hi Lorie,  

It depends on the lab doing the work.  C-14 can take three weeks and up to 6 months.  If the lab is very busy.  Better labs can get very busy.  Tests for the wood velum ink can be completed with in a few weeks typically , again depending on how busy the lab techs are.  If the archaeologist has the training could potentially do it themselves.  For instance, I can do wood, ink,and coins, but not the velum.  Yours could it all....  The c-14 on the other hand takes very sophisticated equipment and generally only big labs have this kind of equipment.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Cool, that will work perfectly for my timeline of events to come. Now the labs that can do c-14 can you tell me if they are typically privately owned or are they attached to universities or museums. I am thinking of the security issue in this, because of possible false results being given to destroy the discovery.

ANSWER: Hi Lorie,

Yes to all three.  Most labs belong to universities.  Only a few are run by museums (Smithsonian for instance) and there are a few private labs.  The govt. also has a few labs that can do this kind of work.    The results are done in what is  called a double blind system.  The samples are coded and then divided in to smaller portions for the analysis by as many as 5 labs.  In this way you get independent values and since these are double blind, the labs do not know where they come from.  They provide a result.  It keeps the system honest.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Okay wonderful, for storyline purposes I had my main character take a small sample for c-14 testing to her alma-mater for testing when she first began her search for the treasure. Is this possible to just walk into a university lab and request this test to be done? Also how large does the sample have to be in order to do as you said and divide into smaller portions for testing. I have had my archaeologist to take 4 samples from each item to be tested by different labs purposes of complete and absolute verification. Is this overkill. Thank you so much for all of your time and help. I am eternally greatful.

Hi Lorie,  For the sake of fiction, you can create a university that has the process.  It does not need to be a real lab.  Of course for the purposes of realism you may want to.  With today's technology, it can be less then a gram but with wood, you need to take it from as far from the center rings as possible to get close to the year the tree was cut down.  

This is where some of the variability comes from. Also if she has a good relationship with the college, she could get a substantial discount. It usually costs as much as $3000 per sample or more.  I've has some done for around $300 due to my relationships.


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Ralph Salier


Archaeologist for the last 30 years. Norh American generalist and Hopwell culture/Red Ocher culture specifically. Lithics Expert and Ground Stone tools.


Past/Present clients
Numerous museums in US and Canada. Several University Anthropology Departments.

©2017 All rights reserved.