Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Dr. Tony Krus


Radiocarbon dating, Medical cadavers, Embalming solutions, Forensics


In the 1950s, atomic bomb testing caused large quantities of synthetic 14C to be released into the atmosphere and enter the bodies of living organisms. Methods for calibrating radiocarbon dates from post-bomb materials have been developed over the past two decades and are becoming more applicable in forensics; however, the application of radiocarbon dating concerning medical cadavers has not been fully explored. To determine if human cadavers are viable research subjects, three samples were collected from two human cadavers from the Sanford School of Medicine with known birth and death dates. The intention was to have a lower incisor and a portion of the humerus epiphyses and diaphysis from each cadaver sent to the Center for Applied Isotope Studies (CAIS) at the University of Georgia for radiocarbon dating; however, only the incisor of a cadaver that was born after 1950 was dated. It was expected that the various embalming solutions used on cadavers have no effect on the radiocarbon dates and that human medical cadavers are viable research subjects; however, it was found that embalming solutions do have an effect on the radiocarbon date results but, with further studies, human medical cadavers have the potential to be viable research subjects.



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