4. Luminescence Dating of Archaeological Materials

Optically-Stimulated Luminescence is a late Quaternary dating technique used to date the last time quartz sediment was exposed to light. As sediment is transported by wind, water, or ice, it is exposed to sunlight and zeroed of any previous luminescence signal. Once this sediment is deposited and subsequently buried, it is removed from light and is exposed to low levels of natural radiation in the surrounding sediment. Through geologic time, quartz minerals accumulate a luminescence signal as ionizing radiation excites electrons within parent nuclei in the crystal lattice. A certain percent of the freed electrons become trapped in defects or holes in the crystal lattice of the quartz sand grain referred to as luminescent centers and accumulate over time Aitken, In our laboratory, these sediments are exposed to an external stimulus blue-green light and the trapped electrons are released. The released electrons emit a photon of light upon recombination at a similar site. In order to relate the luminescence given off by the sample to an age, we first need to obtain the dose equivalent to the burial dose. Following the single-aliquot regenerative SAR method of Murray and Wintle , the dose equivalent De is calculated by first measuring the natural luminescence of a sample.

Luminescence dating

Scientists in North America first developed thermoluminescence dating of rock minerals in the s and s, and the University of Oxford, England first developed the thermoluminescence dating of fired ceramics in the s and s. During the s and s scientists at Simon Frasier University, Canada, developed standard thermoluminescence dating procedures used to date sediments. In , they also developed optically stimulated luminescence dating techniques, which use laser light, to date sediments.

The microscopic structure of some minerals and ceramics trap nuclear radioactive energy. This energy is in constant motion within the minerals or sherds. Most of the energy escapes as heat, but sometimes this energy separates electrons from the molecules that make up the minerals or ceramics.

Jean-Luc Schwenninger is Head of the Luminescence Dating Laboratory at the Research Laboratory for Archaeology and History of Art, University of Oxford.

We use cookies on our website. To learn more about the cookies we use, please see our cookie policy. You can manage cookies via your browser settings. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Accept and Close. Please note: This is version 1. She is a Quaternary Scientist with interests in palaeoenvironmental change in dryland regions, geoarchaeological applications and the advancement of luminescence dating as a geochronological technique. Her current projects include:.

You can find Julie on her University of Oxford webpage.

Dr Jean-Luc Schwenninger

The application of Thermally TL and Optically OSL Stimulated Luminescence on bricks used as building material has allowed solving an chronological issue in the field of historical building dating. The possibility to use one or more methodologies of dating is closely related to the luminescent and granulometric characteristics of the sample. Using some brick samples collected in the church of Sain Seurin in Bordeaux France , this paper discusses the implications and the possibility to use different approaches and techniques for dating.

With this aim luminescence measurements were performed on both polymineral fine grain and quartz inclusion phases extracted from each brick. Magnetic investigations and datings of a brick kiln at Veldbaek near Esbjerg Denmark.

The OSL (optically stimulated luminescence) dating method exploits dosimetric properties of grains of minerals Oxford: Oxford University Press,

Enter your mobile number or email address below and we’ll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer – no Kindle device required. To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number. Would you like to tell us about a lower price? If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support? Optical dating is a rapidly developing technique, used primarily in the dating of sediments deposited in the last , or more years, and increasing numbers of Quaternary geologists, physical geographers, archaeologists, and anthropologists are now relying on the results.

School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford

Optically stimulated luminescence dating at Rose Cottage Cave. A single-grain analysis demonstrates that the testing procedure for feldspar fails to reject single aliquots containing feldspar and the overestimate of age is attributed to this. Seven additional luminescence dates for the Middle Stone Age layers combined with the 14 C chronology establish the terminal Middle Stone Age deposits at 27 years ago, while stone tool assemblages that are transitional between the Middle Stone Age and the Late Stone Age are dated to between 27 years and 20 years ago.

Although there are inconsistencies in the Middle Stone Age dates, the results suggest that the Howiesons Poort at Rose Cottage Cave dates to between 70 years and 60 years ago. Much of the rich archaeological heritage in southern Africa is older than 50 years, which is the limit of the ubiquitous 14 C dating technique.

Julie is a Supernumerary Teaching Fellow at St John’s College, Oxford and Developing optically stimulated luminescence dating as a low-temperature.

Please reference: Mallinson, D. Optically stimulated luminescence is a method of determining the age of burial of quartz or feldspar bearing sediments based upon principles of radiation and excitation within crystal lattices, and stems from the fact that imperfections in a crystal lattice have the ability to store ionizing energy Aitken , ; Botter -Jensen et al. Radiation within sediments comes from alpha, beta, and gamma radiation emitted during the decay of U, U, Th, 40 K, and 87 Rb, and their daughter products, both within the mineral grains and in their surroundings Lian , , and from cosmic rays Figure 1.

Under controlled laboratory conditions, assuming the sample was collected under light-restricted conditions, controlled exposure of the sample to photons yields a luminescence response the equivalent dose, D e , the intensity of which is a function of the dose rate within the sediment, and the length of time the sample was exposed to the background radiation.

In order to measure the age, two factors must be known; 1 the environmental dose rate, and 2 the laboratory dose of radiation that produces the same intensity of luminescence as did the environmental radiation dose the equivalent dose. Dividing the equivalent dose by the dose rate yields time. Samples for OSL analysis are typically collected from opaque core tubes aluminum or black pvc tubes that are pushed into the sediment using coring equipment vibracore , geoprobe , etc.

Samples are then extracted for processing under dark-room conditions.

References

Luminescence dating is used to identify when a sample was last exposed to daylight or extreme heat by estimating the amount of ionising radiation absorbed since burial or firing. This equation very simply expresses the calculations necessary, but it is important to be aware of the factors influencing the two values used. Heterogeneous sediments and radioactive disequilibria will increase errors on Dr, while incomplete bleaching of the sample prior to burial, anomalous fading in feldspars, and the estimation of past sediment moisture content may all also add to increased errors.

The dating of sediments using the luminescence signal generated by optical stimulation OSL offers an independent dating tool, and is used most often on the commonly occurring minerals of quartz and feldspar and, as such, has proved particularly useful in situations devoid of the organic component used in radiocarbon dating. Quartz has been used for dating to at least ka, while the deeper traps of feldspar have produced dates as old as 1 ma.

The use of fine-grain dating for samples such as pottery, loess, burnt flint and lacustrine sediments, and coarse-grain dating of aeolian, fluvial and glacial sediments is regularly undertaken.

Luminescence dating includes the techniques of thermoluminescence (TL) (​Aitken ), in which mineral grains are heated during measurement, and optical.

The impetus behind this study is to understand the sedimentological dynamics of very young fluvial systems in the Amazon River catchment and relate these to land use change and modern analogue studies of tidal rhythmites in the geologic record. Many of these features have an appearance of freshly deposited pristine sand, and these observations and information from anecdotal evidence and LandSat imagery suggest an apparent decadal stability.

Signals from medium-sized aliquots 5 mm diameter exhibit very high specific luminescence sensitivity, have excellent dose recovery and recycling, essentially independent of preheat, and show minimal heat transfer even at the highest preheats. Significant recuperation is observed for samples from two of the study sites and, in these instances, either the acceptance threshold was increased or growth curves were forced through the origin; recuperation is considered most likely to be a measurement artefact given the very small size of natural signals.

Despite the use of medium-sized aliquots to ensure the recovery of very dim natural OSL signals, these results demonstrate the potential of OSL for studying very young active fluvial processes in these settings. An important facet of the development of a geochronological technique is the investigation of potential age range. Much recent work in the luminescence field has focused on maximum achievable ages using high-temperature post-infrared infrared pIRIR signals from feldspars [ 1 , 2 ].

In contrast for quartz optically stimulated luminescence OSL , the more efficient signal resetting coupled with environments where grain reworking is evident make it well suited to assessment of minimum achievable age. Notable examples are studies of young fluvial deposits [ 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 ] and dunes [ 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 11 ]. Regarding the application of OSL dating to fluvial sediments in the Amazon region, a number of studies have used the technique to try to constrain the origin and development of the drainage system, documenting Mid—Late Pleistocene ages [ 12 , 13 , 14 ], and OSL analyses have also been carried out to investigate the Late Pleistocene to Holocene development of fluvial bars [ 15 ].

The impetus behind this work was to investigate the feasibility of optically stimulated luminescence OSL dating of very young fluvial and shoreline landforms in the Amazon River catchment. The ultimate goal of the study is to use OSL to help understand the sedimentological dynamics of fluvial systems in the Amazon.

Research interests

Research Interests The application and development of thermoluminescence TL and optically stimulated luminescence OSL for dating archaeological sites, pre historic buildings and materials as well as objects of art. I am interested in the application and development of thermoluminescence TL and optically stimulated luminescence OSL for dating archaeological sites, pre historic buildings and materials as well as objects of art.

In addition to my teaching and administrative activities within the School of Archaeology, I also provide a commercial luminescence dating service to outside institutions, private individuals and companies. Skip to main content.

Half a century after the publication of the first Thermoluminescence (TL) ages, the field of Luminescence Dating has reached a level of maturity.

Luminescence dating refers to a group of methods of determining how long ago mineral grains were last exposed to sunlight or sufficient heating. It is useful to geologists and archaeologists who want to know when such an event occurred. It uses various methods to stimulate and measure luminescence. All sediments and soils contain trace amounts of radioactive isotopes of elements such as potassium , uranium , thorium , and rubidium.

These slowly decay over time and the ionizing radiation they produce is absorbed by mineral grains in the sediments such as quartz and potassium feldspar. The radiation causes charge to remain within the grains in structurally unstable “electron traps”. The trapped charge accumulates over time at a rate determined by the amount of background radiation at the location where the sample was buried.

Stimulating these mineral grains using either light blue or green for OSL; infrared for IRSL or heat for TL causes a luminescence signal to be emitted as the stored unstable electron energy is released, the intensity of which varies depending on the amount of radiation absorbed during burial and specific properties of the mineral. Most luminescence dating methods rely on the assumption that the mineral grains were sufficiently “bleached” at the time of the event being dated. Single Quartz OSL ages can be determined typically from to , years BP, and can be reliable when suitable methods are used and proper checks are done.

Optical Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) Dating in Geoarchaeological Research


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