DNA radiocarbon dating gets a new, more accurate AI-powered approach


Researchers came up with the moniker “Temporal Population Structure,” and it stuck (TPS). It’s an AI-aided technique for determining the age of artifacts using DNA. Researchers from the University of Lund in Sweden led an international team in creating it. This is according to research published in Cell Reports Methods.

The first and most important stage in any archeological investigation is to determine the remains’ precise age. Radiocarbon dating is now the gold standard; this technique uses the ratio of two carbon isotopes to determine the age of biological items.

The process of radiocarbon dating relies on the idea that radioactive isotopes of carbon may be produced when cosmic rays collide with nitrogen in the atmosphere. Through photosynthesis, plants integrate the carbon dioxide produced when radiocarbon reacts with oxygen. Radiocarbon is ingested by animals when they are eating on plants, and is lost when the animal or plant dies. Due to radioactive decay, the quantity of radiocarbon starts to decrease. It is possible to get rather exact information on the time of death by measuring the quantity of radiocarbon in the sample collected from the remnants of deceased animals or plants, such as a tiny bit of bone or a small piece of wood. This method is commonly utilized in archeology since it may be used to dates that do not exceed 50,000 years in the past.

The researchers’ technique allows for very precise dating of genomes for up to 10,000 years (from the late Mesolithic to the present day). In this paper, we demonstrate that the genetic material contains information about the historical period in which humans lived. Elhaik notes that they used AI to determine the date by learning how to “read” the document and “sit it” in historical context. The initiative includes scholars including Eran Elhaik.

It’s a tool that might eventually supplement “traditional” radiocarbon dating, especially in situations when the latter provides a date that’s too unclear to be reliable. According to Elhaik, the new process is based on DNA analysis and should be more “solid” than radiocarbon dating, which may be affected by the quality of the item being dated.

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