Thermoluminescence dating is used for material where radiocarbon dating is not available, like sediments.Its use is now common in the authentication of old ceramic wares, for which it gives the approximate date of the last firing.An example of this can be seen in Rink and Bartoll, 2005.Thermoluminescence dating was modified for use as a passive sand migration analysis tool by Keizars, et al., 2008 (Figure 3), demonstrating the direct consequences resulting from the improper replenishment of starving beaches using fine sands, as well as providing a passive method of policing sand replenishment and observing riverine or other sand inputs along shorelines (Figure 4).It allows the determination of ages of geological sediments and archaeological objects.Age range and precision The age range for pottery and other ceramics covers the entire period in which these materials have been produced.Often the gamma radiation field at the position of the sample material is measured, or it may be calculated from the alpha radioactivity and potassium content of the sample environment, and the cosmic ray dose is added in.Once all components of the radiation field are determined, the accumulated dose from the thermoluminescence measurements is divided by the dose accumulating each year, to obtain the years since the zeroing event.
For artworks, it may be sufficient to confirm whether a piece is broadly ancient or modern (that is, authentic or a fake), and this may be possible even if a precise date cannot be estimated.
Different materials vary considerably in their suitability for the technique, depending on several factors.
Subsequent irradiation, for example if an x-ray is taken, can affect accuracy, as will the "annual dose" of radiation a buried object has received from the surrounding soil.
Most excited electrons will soon recombine with lattice ions, but some will be trapped, storing part of the energy of the radiation in the form of trapped electric charge (Figure 1).
Depending on the depth of the traps (the energy required to free an electron from them) the storage time of trapped electrons will vary as some traps are sufficiently deep to store charge for hundreds of thousands of years.