Luminescence Dating

The Luminescence Dating Laboratory at the Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, University of Oxford, has been actively involved in the development and application of luminescence dating for more than 50 years. The Laboratory has considerable experience in the dating of sediments and pottery and offers a service for luminescence dating of archaeological, environmental and Quaternary geological contexts. This includes optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating of sediments as well ceramics (pottery, brick, tile, etc…), and burnt stones.

Applications of Luminescence Dating

Luminescence dating is particularly appropriate when radiocarbon dating is not possible (either where no suitable material is available or for ages beyond the radiocarbon age limit) or for applications affected by radiocarbon plateau effects (e.g. post 1700 AD, early Iron Age contexts, late glacial timescales) and when the relationship between the organic materials and the archaeological context is uncertain. The particular advantage of luminescence dating is that the method provides a date for the archaeological artefact or deposit itself, rather than for organic material in assumed association. In the case of OSL sediment dating, suitable material (sand or silt-sized grains of quartz and feldspar) is usually available ubiquitously throughout the site.

Age range and precision

The age range for pottery and other ceramics covers the entire period in which these materials have been produced. The typical range for burnt stone or sediment is from about 100 to 300,000 years. The error limits on the dates obtained are typically in the range of 5 to 10%.

Commercial dating service

Our standard cost for OSL dating is £550+VAT per sample but prices can vary depending on the nature and number of samples (see our schedule of charges). Fieldwork (within Southern England) including in-situ radioactivity measurements, sample collection and travel to and from site can be undertaken at a daily rate of £300+VAT. We are also able to conduct sample collection outside of the UK if the client is willing to cover additional transport, accommodation and subsistence costs.

Postgraduate students registered for a degree course within a UK university which does not house a luminescence laboratory may be eligible to apply for an award through a joint scheme set up with the Quaternary Research Association (http://qra.org.uk/grants). Likewise, projects central to the Laboratory's research interests may be carried out at a reduced charge.

The typical turn-round time for providing a date is circa 3-4 months, although, rapid dating (circa 4-6 weeks or sometimes less, depending on machine time and sample type) using our fast track service can be undertaken.

OSL dating results including Dose equivalent (De) estimate, dose rate measurement and calculated age will be reported as a short pdf document by email. More detailed expert reporting according to specific client needs can be undertaken following prior agreement with the laboratory. Such consultancy work which will be charged on the basis of a daily rate of £500+VAT.

For further information contact:

Dr Jean-Luc Schwenninger - Head of Luminescence Dating Laboratory

Telephone: +44 (0)1865-285224
e-mail: jean-luc.schwenninger@rlaha.ox.ac.uk

School of Archaeology > Research > Luminescence