The resources of the Smithsonian Institution’s Vertebrate Paleontology Preparation Laboratory were drawn upon to remove the plastic atrix with a pneumatic scribe.
Several sessions of intensive, meticulous work with the so-called air scribe, used to separate fossils from their geological matrices, were required to extract the delicate skull from the surrounding plastic (Figures 2 and 3).
To address this question, radiocarbon analysis was conducted.
Standard 14C dating is based on the work of Nobel Laureate Willard Frank Libby (1908-1980) (Libby 1946), which was inspired by the research of a cosmic-ray physicist, Serge A. Although Libby initially kept his findings secret because he thought the idea was too ludicrous to gain financial support, 14C dating has ultimately revolutionized archeology, geology, geophysics, and other branches of science (Taylor 2000).
The radiocarbon dating method recognizes that living plants and animals maintain amounts of the carbon isotope 14C, which are close to atmospheric levels.
Inside the metal bucket was a smaller, white plastic bucket containing a human skull partially embedded in a gray plastic material.The skull and plastic were then sent to the FBI Laboratory to determine the composition of the matrix and to attempt to extricate and analyze the human remains.Radiographs revealed a skull with the cranium and mandible disarticulated within the plastic matrix (Figure 1).However, the coloration of the broken margin of the right zygomatic suggested relatively recent fracture.Numerous teeth were missing both ante- and postmortem.