Luminescence dating of Quaternary sediments: recent advances

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Luminescence dating is unique amongst geochronological methods in dating the deposition of sediments based upon the properties of the constituent minerals. For Quaternary sediments the event being dated is the last exposure of the grains to daylight, and an implicit assumption is that this exposure was sufficient to remove any pre-existing signal. Until recently it has been difficult to test this assumption, other than by dating samples from a given depositional context with an age that is known from independent methods. There have been a series of technological and methodological developments in the past 5-10 yr that make it possible to undertake many replicate measurements of the luminescence from a single sample and hence to explicitly test whether for a specific sample all the grains had their luminescence signal reset at deposition. This allows the reliability of the luminescence age to be assessed. Where all the grains in a sample were not exposed to sufficient daylight to reset their luminescence signal, the apparent age will be an average value of the luminescence from all the grains measured at one time. Where many grains are measured simultaneously, this will overestimate the depositional age. The distribution of apparent age can be made clear by reducing the number of grains being measured in a given experiment, ultimately to the point of measuring individual sand-sized mineral grains.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-192
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Quaternary Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2004
EventAnnual Discussion Meeting of the Quaternary-Research-Association - Oxford
Duration: 01 Jan 2001 → …


  • Blombos
  • Coastal dunes
  • Colluvium
  • Jinmium
  • OSL
  • Optically stimulated luminescence
  • Single grains


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