Korean J Leg Med.  2018 Aug;42(3):105-109. 10.7580/kjlm.2018.42.3.105.

Radiocarbon Dating of Skeletal Remains: Case Report

  • 1Division of Forensic Investigation, National Forensic Service Seoul Institute, Seoul, Korea. parkandjp@gmail.com
  • 2Medical Examiner's Office, National Forensic Service, Wonju, Korea.
  • 3Department of Anatomy, Catholic Institute for Applied Anatomy, College of Medicine, The Catholic University of Korea, Seoul, Korea.


While radioactive isotope analysis has proved to be a useful method in disciplines such as archaeology and forensic anthropology, more recently, radiocarbon dating has allowed for a more nuanced biological profile of human skeletal remains. Radiocarbon dating has been made possible by the above ground nuclear bomb test conducted in 1963, which raised the level of atmospheric radiocarbon concentration to almost twice the natural level. Because the annually measured tropospheric ¹â´C concentrations are integrated into the bomb peak curve, the time of birth and death of an individual can be estimated by comparing the radiocarbon content of a skeletal sample to the bomb-curve value. In July 2017, about 1,000 skeletal remains were excavated at the construction site of Sokcho. For medico-legal purposes, we conducted anthropological and odontological examinations of all the human remains. We then conducted the radiocarbon analysis on seven femora (head and body portions), five mandibular teeth, and soil from the site through a request to the Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources. The results demonstrated that the estimated year of birth or death was prior to the 1950s. Due to the diverse distribution of results, we deduced that the human remains were from the local mass grave. This study supports and suggests the use of radiocarbon dating more frequently in the analysis of human skeletal remains.


Radiocarbon; Dating; Skeletal remains; Forensic anthropology

MeSH Terms

Earth Sciences
Forensic Anthropology
Radiometric Dating*


  • Fig. 1 (A–D) Skeletal remains packed in boxes and paper bags were requested for the identification.

  • Fig. 2 (A–D) Skeletal remains were classified as anatomical structure and analyzed by anthropological and odontological examination.


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