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Information on the shape and size of the Antarctic Ice Sheets over the past 20,000 years is contained within rocks deposited on the surface of Antarctica as the ice sheet has retreated and thinned since that time.

Luminescence dating limitations

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The age range for pottery and other ceramics covers the entire period in which these materials have been produced.

The typical range for burnt stone or sediment is from about 100 to 300,000 years.

Thermoluminescence emits a weak light signal that is proportional to the radiation dose absorbed by the material. The technique has wide application, and is relatively cheap at some US0–700 per object; ideally a number of samples are tested. The destruction of a relatively significant amount of sample material is necessary, which can be a limitation in the case of artworks.

The heating must have taken the object above 500° C, which covers most ceramics, although very high-fired porcelain creates other difficulties.

The error limits on the dates obtained are typically in the range of 5 to 10%.

Our standard cost for OSL dating is £550 VAT per sample but prices can vary depending on the nature and number of samples (see our schedule of charges).

Fieldwork (within Southern England) including in-situ radioactivity measurements, sample collection and travel to and from site can be undertaken at a daily rate of £300 VAT.

We are also able to conduct sample collection outside of the UK if the client is willing to cover additional transport, accommodation and subsistence costs.

In the same way, more or less, OSL (optically stimulated luminescence) dating measures the last time an object was exposed to sunlight.

Two forms of luminescence dating are used by archaeologists to date events in the past: thermoluminescence (TL) or thermally stimulated luminescence (TSL), which measures energy emitted after an object has been exposed to temperatures between 400 and 500°C; and optically stimulated luminescence (OSL), which measures energy emitted after an object has been exposed to daylight.

To put it simply, certain minerals (quartz, feldspar, and calcite), store energy from the sun at a known rate.

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.