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".
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Key Pages: Archaeologies of the Greek Past - Home schedule requirements assessment course members message board micro-projects Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology. Thermoluminescence can be used to date materials containing crystalline minerals to a specific heating event. This is useful for ceramics, as it determines the date of firing, as well as for lava, or even sediments that were exposed to substantial sunlight. These crystalline solids are constantly subjected to ionizing radiation from their environment, which causes some energized electrons to become trapped in defects in the molecular crystal structure.
Geologists often need to know the age of material that they find. They use absolute dating methods, sometimes called numerical dating, to give rocks an actual date, or date range, in number of years. This is different to relative dating, which only puts geological events in time order. Most absolute dates for rocks are obtained with radiometric methods.
Thermoluminescence dating TL is the determination, by means of measuring the accumulated radiation dose, of the time elapsed since material containing crystalline minerals was either heated lava , ceramics or exposed to sunlight sediments. As a crystalline material is heated during measurements, the process of thermoluminescence starts. Thermoluminescence emits a weak light signal that is proportional to the radiation dose absorbed by the material. It is a type of luminescence dating.