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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.

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.

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Natural crystalline materials contain imperfections: impurity ions, stress dislocations, and other phenomena that disturb the regularity of the electric field that holds the atoms in the crystalline lattice together.

These imperfections lead to local humps and dips in the crystalline material's electric potential.

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.

Thermoluminescence emits a weak light signal that is proportional to the radiation dose absorbed by the material. The technique has wide application, and is relatively cheap at some US$300–700 per object; ideally a number of samples are tested. The destruction of a relatively significant amount of sample material is necessary, which can be a limitation in the case of artworks.

The heating must have taken the object above 500° C, which covers most ceramics, although very high-fired porcelain creates other difficulties.Ideally this is assessed by measurements made at the precise findspot over a long period.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.In thermoluminescence dating, these long-term traps are used to determine the age of materials: When irradiated crystalline material is again heated or exposed to strong light, the trapped electrons are given sufficient energy to escape.In the process of recombining with a lattice ion, they lose energy and emit photons (light quanta), detectable in the laboratory.Thermoluminescence dating (TL) is the determination, by means of measuring the accumulated radiation dose, of the time elapsed since material containing crystalline minerals was either heated (lava, ceramics) or exposed to sunlight (sediments).

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