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Charles then moved the family and nine-month-old Tom to New Zealand's rugged south island to start an archaeology department at the University of Otago in Dunedin.As a teenager, Tom spent summers at Ban Na Di, a study site in northeastern Thailand, where his duties included helping with human excavations and brewing tea for the crew.Within 30,000 years, 98% of the already vanishingly small quantities of carbon-14 in bone is gone.And carbon-14 molecules from surrounding soil start to seep into the fossils.

As a child he was obsessed with the history of the American West.Libby earned the 1960 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work.The clock gets less accurate as the samples age, however; cruelly, it begins to fail at one of the most interesting times of human history in Europe.If you Google 'archaeologist' and 'Higham', the first hit is likely to be Charles Higham, a 72-year-old professor who has charted the origins of agriculture and government in southeast Asia.Tom was born in Cambridge, where his father was based until 1966.

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