Radioactive carbon dating demonstration
(Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)Marvin Rowe, a scientist at the New Mexico Office of Archaeological Studies, adjusts the Low Energy Plasma Radiocarbon Sampling device he built to date artifacts with minimal damage. That machine he built, and what it’s used for, helped Rowe win the prestigious Fryxell Award for Interdisciplinary Research from the Society of American Archeology two years ago.“We call the process Low Energy Plasma Radiocarbon Sampling,” said New Mexico’s state archeologist Eric Blinman, who credits Rowe with inventing the process.“But a lot of people just refer to this as ‘Marvin’s Machine.'”The process is important because, unlike other methods of radiocarbon dating that destroy the sample being tested, LEPRS preserves it.“The people who will fake texts can get their hands on old bamboo,” he said.
In fact, the first machine he and his Texas A&M colleagues built caught fire and was destroyed.
Currently, there are only three LEPRS machines in existence – one in Michigan and one in Arkansas, both procured by former students of Rowe – but the one at the lab located at the New Mexico Office of Archeological Studies off N. 599 in south Santa Fe is the most sophisticated.“Marvin has learned so much from the previous two (machines) about their construction and their use that when we offered him space and the opportunity to build one here, it was sort of like he was able to do all the things he sort of wanted to do, but couldn’t under the circumstances of the research at Texas A&M,” said Blinman.