Amino acid dating is a dating technique      used to estimate the age of a specimen in paleobiology , molecular paleontology , archaeology , forensic science , taphonomy , sedimentary geology and other fields. This technique relates changes in amino acid molecules to the time elapsed since they were formed. All biological tissues contain amino acids. This means that the amino acid can have two different configurations, "D" or "L" which are mirror images of each other. With a few important exceptions, living organisms keep all their amino acids in the "L" configuration. When an organism dies, control over the configuration of the amino acids ceases, and the ratio of D to L moves from a value near 0 towards an equilibrium value near 1, a process called racemization.
Shell middens are one of the most important and widespread indicators for human exploitation of marine resources and occupation of coastal environments. Establishing an accurate and reliable chronology for these deposits has fundamental implications for understanding the patterns of human evolution and dispersal. This paper explores the potential application of a new methodology of amino acid racemization AAR dating of shell middens and describes a simple protocol to test the suitability of different molluscan species. This protocol provides a preliminary test for the presence of an intracrystalline fraction of proteins by bleaching experiments and subsequent heating at high temperature , checking the closed system behaviour of this fraction during diagenesis.
Amino acid dating has an important attribute in common with Carbon 14 dating. While most other dating mechanisms date the rock surrounding fossils, both Amino Acid and Carbon 14 dating methods, date the actual fossil itself. This ability to date the actual specimen could make the Amino Acid dating procedure very valuable. However, Amino Acid dating has problems.