Definition of thermoluminescence dating

Luminescence dating (including thermoluminescence and optically stimulated luminescence) is a type of dating methodology that measures the amount of light emitted from energy stored in certain rock types and derived soils to obtain an absolute date for a specific event that occurred in the past.The method is a direct dating technique, meaning that the amount of energy emitted is a direct result of the event being measured.The total absorbed radiation dose is determined by exciting, with light, specific minerals (usually quartz or potassium feldspar) extracted from the sample, and measuring the amount of light emitted as a result.The photons of the emitted light must have higher energies than the excitation photons in order to avoid measurement of ordinary photoluminescence.

This is usually, but not always, the case with aeolian deposits, such as sand dunes and loess, and some water-laid deposits.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.The concept of using luminescence dating in archaeological contexts was first suggested in 1953 by Farrington Daniels, Charles A. Saunders, who thought the thermoluminescence response of pottery shards could date the last incidence of heating.The traditional OSL method relies on optical stimulation and transfer of electrons from one trap, to holes located elsewhere in the lattice – necessarily requiring two defects to be in nearby proximity, and hence it is a destructive technique.

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