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Cosmogenic dating archaeology

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.

At this stage, the work is laborious, expensive and developmental, but virtually all analytical geochronological techniques are thus as they are developed but ultimately become more affordable as they become more routine.

It is worth recalling here that the application of all geochronological techniques is never fully routine, though some are more widely understood than others and their assumptions (and the associated potential pitfalls) are part of the ‘working toolkit’ of many archaeologists.

SUERC hosts the joint Glasgow-SUERC laboratory and, on behalf of NERC, the Cosmogenic Isotope Analysis Facility (CIAF) dedicated to UK scientists.

The University of Edinburgh laboratory is in the School of Geo Sciences.

TCN analysis is still overall in a developmental phase, although it is reasonable to state that its application is becoming more routine.

This new work utilises depth profiles of 2009, 2010b).

It uses various methods to stimulate and measure luminescence.

It includes techniques such as optically stimulated luminescence (OSL), infrared stimulated luminescence (IRSL), and thermoluminescence dating (TL).

C are extracted from quartz, involving two processes: (i) the preparation of ultra-pure quartz from the sample rock, and (ii) the extraction of the relevant nuclide from that quartz, by chemical means in the case of C in ‘unknown’ samples (Fülöp et al., 2010a).

All radio-nuclides are measured using the 5 MV tandem accelerator mass spectrometer (AMS) at SUERC, the only AMS for cosmogenic nuclide measurements in the UK and the only AMS world-wide dedicated solely to geosciences applications.


  1. Guide, Third Nordic Workshop on Cosmogenic Nuclide Techniques. including glacial paleoclimate change, sediment burial dating including archaeology.

  2. Dating sediment burial with in situ-produced cosmogenic nuclides theory, techniques, and limitations Darryl E. Grangera;*, Paul F. Muzikarb a Prime Laboratory.

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