Brief Communications

Nature 437, 333-334 (15 September 2005) | doi:10.1038/437333a; Published online 14 September 2005

Forensics: Age written in teeth by nuclear tests

Kirsty L. Spalding1, Bruce A. Buchholz3, Lars-Eric Bergman2, Henrik Druid2 & Jonas Frisén1

Establishing the age at death of individuals is an important step in their identification and can be done with high precision up to adolescence by analysis of dentition, but it is more difficult in adults. Here we show that the amount of radiocarbon present in tooth enamel as a result of nuclear bomb testing during 1955–63 is a remarkably accurate indicator of when a person was born. Age is determined to within 1.6 years, whereas the commonly used morphological evaluation of skeletal remains and tooth wear is sensitive to within 5–10 years in adults.

  1. Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, Medical Nobel Institute, 17177 Stockholm, Sweden
  2. Department of Forensic Medicine, Karolinska Institute, 17177 Stockholm, Sweden
  3. Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, California 94551, USA

Correspondence to: Jonas Frisén1 Email:


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