SAS Bulletin

Volume 20   Number 1/2   January /June 1997

Radiocarbon update: Internet Resources

Contributed by Dr. Thomas Higham, Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand (

    In the past two years, some of the worldís 14C laboratories have developed an Internet presence via World Wide Web (WWW) based servers. This article describes briefly some interesting stops in the 14C world on the web.
     At least 22 radiocarbon laboratories now offer WWW pages illustrating their services and providing information on their analytical techniques, prices, turnaround times, pretreatment and sample preparation methods and laboratory research. At Oxford University in England, the AMS Unit provides WWW pages which include a background on research into the use of radiocarbon in archaeology by AMS, as well as downloadable versions of their Windowsbased calibration programme OxCal ( This program allows Bayesian statistical analysis of radiocarbon determinations and their stratigraphic sequences and phases. The Quaternary Isotope Laboratory at the University of Washington in Seattle also provides click and download access to their computer programme CALIB 3.0.3 for radiocarbon age calibration (
    Beta Analytic Inc. (Miami, Florida) present a useful page explaining their calibration printout which they provide for each radiocarbon determination from their facility ( US laboratories NOSAMS (National Ocean Sciences AMS) at Woods Hole, and PRIME laboratory at Purdue University in Indiana, offer WWWbased search engines which enable submitters to check on the status of their samples within the laboratory. At PRIME, the accelerator schedule is updated weekly online to allow submitters to ascertain the position of their samples in the queue. The respective URLs for these laboratories are and
    Many radiocarbon facilities offer sample submission forms to download off the internet but at the Waikato University Laboratory in New Zealand, submitters can complete a WWW formsbased document which can be filled out and submitted online, and from there transferred simply onto the lab database ( The Radiocarbon Laboratory at the University of Texas has prepared an extensive list of information regarding sample preparation and pretreatment protocols in their laboratory, many of which are applicable in other labs ( At the Desert Research Institute 14C facility in Las Vegas, there is useful background information provided regarding the pathway of 14C in the global reservoirs (
    At the home page for the journal Radiocarbon (, related 14C information is available including access to radiocarbon databases and abstract lists, details of Radiocarbon publications and abstracts from the journal itself. You can also find contact details for the 130 known active radiocarbon facilities around the world. Assistant Editor David Sewell, the person responsible for the journalís internet presence, has also made available an online version of the key 1977 14C paper by Minze Stuiver and Henry Polach concerned with radiocarbon conventions. In 1995, Radiocarbon developed an online journal called Radiocarbon Date Lists ( Lists of dates were formerly published in the journal itself but this was discontinued recently. The online version is fully refereed and has been developed to fill the gap left and ensure that there is a suitable place to publish laboratory lists which often are not released from laboratory databases. Radiocarbon also operates the C14Listserv, an unmoderated email discussion group for radiocarbon specialists and other individuals interested in scientific dating generally. At an archive of previous listserv mail is available for perusal. To subscribe to C14-L,  consult
    The Centre for Isotope Research in Groningen, Netherlands hosted the 16th International Radiocarbon conference in June 1997. The conference programme is online at
    All URLs for the laboratories and pages described above are available at Radiocarbon WEBinfo, a WWW resource containing information brought online by the Radiocarbon Laboratories at Waikato (NZ) and Oxford (UK) ( This site contains information regarding the basis of the 14C method of dating, methods of measuring 14C, radiocarbon calibration, links to other laboratory pages and a list of references. In addition, it provides links to WWW pages which illustrate the application of radiocarbon dating to archaeology. Some pages include the recent online report and dating program from Stonehenge (by Ancient Monuments Laboratory and English Heritage Scientific Dating Service, UK), the Origins of Angkor Archaeological Project (University of Otago, NZ) and the radiocarbon dating of rock art sites from the Ardeche in France.
    The internet resources provided by radiocarbon specialists thus far have been dominated by laboratories providing material of interest to submitters of radiocarbon samples. At present, this is its most common use. Developments in userfriendly web based servers provides the opportunity for archaeologists to literally ìshop aroundî for information regarding prices and turnaround time, and obtain rapid contact with radiocarbon specialists, but little in the way of laboratory Quality Assurance program performance and details of reproducibility have appeared yet.
    Databases of radiocarbon determinations will probably find their most useful location on internet servers. Presentation of information and reports of radiocarbon determinations from different contexts are usually not peer reviewed and it goes without saying that caution is required in their uncritical use.

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