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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).
Anthropological analysis of the skull indicated it was a male of African ancestry with an age at death greater than 50 years.
Radiographs revealed a skull with the cranium and mandible disarticulated within the plastic matrix (Figure 1).
The disarticulation suggested that the cranium and mandible were most likely skeletonized at the time of their immersion into the liquid plastic.
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.