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User Guide for Luminescence Sampling in Archaeological and Geological Contexts

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 January 2017

Michelle S. Nelson
Utah State University Luminescence Lab, 1770 N Research Parkway, Suite 123, North LoganUT
Harrison J. Gray
United States Geological Survey, Box 25046 MS 974, Denver, CO 80225
Jack A. Johnson
Burke Museum of Natural History andCulture University of WashingtonBox 353010, Seattle, WA 98195
Tammy M. Rittenour
Department of Geology, Utah State University, 4505 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84322
James K. Feathers
Department of Anthropology, University of Washington, P.O. Box 353100, Seattle, WA 98195
Shannon A. Mahan
United States Geological Survey, Box 25046 MS 974, Denver, CO 80225


Luminescence dating provides a direct age estimate of the time of last exposure of quartz or feldspar minerals to light or heat and has been successfully applied to deposits, rock surfaces, and fired materials in a number of archaeological and geological settings. Sampling strategies are diverse and can be customized depending on local circumstances, although all sediment samples need to include a light-safe sample and material for dose-rate determination. The accuracy and precision of luminescence dating results are directly related to the type and quality of the material sampled and sample collection methods in the field. Selection of target material for dating should include considerations of adequacy of resetting of the luminescence signal (optical and thermal bleaching), the ability to characterize the radioactive environment surrounding the sample (dose rate), and the lack of evidence for post-depositional mixing (bioturbation in soils and sediment). Sample strategies for collection of samples from sedimentary settings and fired materials are discussed. This paper should be used as a guide for luminescence sampling and is meant to provide essential background information on how to properly collect samples and on the types of materials suitable for luminescence dating.

La datación por luminiscencia proporciona una estimación directa de la edad del último momento en el que el cuarzo o los minerales de feldespato se expusieron a la luz o al calor y que se ha aplicado exitosamente a depósitos, superficies rocosas y materiales expuestos al fuego en distintos contextos arqueológicos y geológicos. Las estrategias de muestreo son diversas y pueden ser individualizadas dependiendo de las circunstancias locales, aunque todas las muestras de sedimentos deben incluir una muestra segura que no haya sido expuesta a la luz y material para calcular la tasa de la dosis. La exactitud y precisión de los resultados de la datación por luminiscencia están directamente relacionadas con el tipo y la calidad de los materiales muestreados y los métodos de recolección de muestras en el campo. La elección del material de estudio para su datación debe incluir las siguientes consideraciones en torno a la idoneidad de poder reposicionar la señal de luminiscencia (blanqueador óptico y térmico), la capacidad de caracterizar el ambiente radiactivo que rodea la muestra (la tasa de la dosis) y el que no exista evidencia de una alteración posdeposicional (bioperturbación en suelos y sedimentos). Se discuten las estrategias de muestreo para la recolección de muestras de contextos sedimentarios y de materiales expuestos al fuego. Este artículo debe utilizarse como una guía para el muestreo por luminiscencia y tiene la intención de proveer información básica de cómo recolectar muestras y sobre los tipos de materiales apropiados para la datación por luminiscencia.

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Copyright © Society for American Archaeology 2015

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