Thermoluminescence dating is very useful for determining the age of pottery. Electrons from quartz and other minerals in the pottery clay are bumped out of their normal positions (ground state) when the clay is exposed to radiation. This radiation may come from radioactive substances such as uranium, present in the clay or burial medium, or from cosmic radiation. When the ceramic is heated to a very high temperature (over 932°F [500°C]), these electrons fall back to the ground state, emitting light in the process and resetting the "clock" to zero. The longer the exposure to the radiation, the more electrons that are bumped into an excited state, and the more light that is emitted upon heating. The process of displacing electrons begins again after the object cools. Scientists can determine how many years have passed since a ceramic was fired by heating it in the laboratory and measuring how much light is given off. Thermoluminescence dating has the advantage of covering the time interval between radiocarbon and potassium-argon dating, or 40,000–200,000 years. In addition, it can be used to date materials that cannot be dated with these other two methods.
Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) has only been used since 1984. It is very similar to thermoluminescence dating, both of which are considered "clock setting" techniques. Minerals found in sediments are sensitive to light. Electrons found in the sediment grains leave the ground state when exposed to light, called recombination. To determine the age of a sediment, scientists expose grains to a known amount of light and compare these grains with the unknown sediment. This technique can be used to determine the age of unheated sediments less than 500,000 years old. A disadvantage to this technique is that in order to get accurate results, the sediment to be tested cannot be exposed to light (which would reset the "clock"), making sampling difficult.
- Dating Techniques - Tree-ring Dating
- Dating Techniques - Cation-ratio Dating
- Other Free Encyclopedias
Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Cyanohydrins to Departments of philosophy:Dating Techniques - Stratigraphy, Seriation, Faunal Dating, Pollen Dating (palynology), Amino Acid Racimization, Cation-ratio Dating - Relative dating, Absolute dating, Radioactive decay dating