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.The machine is used to date artifacts without damaging to the sample.(Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)One of a kind Rowe won his Fryxell Award “based in his prominent role in developing methods for rock art dating and minimally-destructive dating of fragile organic artifacts,” as well as his scientific analysis, scholarship and student training, according to the SAA website. Rowe and two colleagues at Texas A&M’s Department of Chemistry built the first plasma dating machine in 1990 while exploring ways to extract organic carbon from pictograph samples.“Other people have been successful dating charcoal paintings,” Rowe explained.And what’s unique about “Marvin’s Machine” is that it has five chambers, so multiple samples can be tested at once. “To my knowledge, nobody has gotten more than one plasma running at one time.”The Archaeology Institute of America’s Archaeology magazine named Rowe’s non-destructive dating method one of the Top 10 discoveries of 2010.
“The people who will fake texts can get their hands on old bamboo,” he said.
The carbon dioxide gas produced is run through an accelerator mass spectrometer, which measures the decay of radioactive carbon 14 – the more the carbon 14 has decayed, the older the object is.
Comparisons are also made with the amounts of C-14 expected to have existed in the atmosphere in the past.
The plasmas in Rowe’s machine are generated with radio frequencies, rather than electricity, and work like a cleaning agent to scrub off the CO2.“We have to use the ultra pure gases because any contamination from modern, atmospheric CO2 is going to screw up the data.
So he has bled off high-purity oxygen into a reservoir that we will then tap as we generate plasmas,” Blinman said.