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Amongst the artefacts that have been found are ancient moa bones.

Some of these have been sent to the Waikato Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory for analysis.

It is during this stage that the carbon present in the sample is converted into carbon dioxide.

The carbon dioxide is collected and bubbled through various chemicals in the line, which purify it, and the amount of carbon dioxide that has been collected is measured.

Historical artefacts like moa bones can be dated using a technique that measures the activity of the radioisotope carbon-14 still present in the sample.

By comparing this with a modern standard, an estimate of the calendar age of the artefact can be made.

This technique is not restricted to bones; it can also be used on cloth, wood and plant fibers.

Professor Tom Higham is director of the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit at Oxford University and Principal Investigator for the Palaeo Chron Project.

Tom completed his Ph D at the Waikato Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory.

The carbon dioxide formed in the combustion stage is heated in the presence of pure lithium metal, which produces lithium carbide.

When all of the carbon dioxide has reacted, distilled water is added to the lithium carbide and a chemical reaction occurs, resulting in the production of acetylene gas.

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