Document Type

Journal Article


Paleoanthropologists and archeologists interested in occupation histories, faunal remains, and objects of material culture have become increasingly reliant on optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating to construct Quaternary chronologies. In part, the increased use of OSL dating reflects its capacity to date events beyond the range of radiocarbon dating and in contexts where suitable organic materials are absent. An earlier review in Evolutionary Anthropology by Feathers provides a general account of the principles of luminescence dating. Since then, however, important advances have been made in OSL dating of quartz, so that it is now possible to date individual sand-sized grains and thereby resolve issues of postdepositional mixing of archeological sediments. In this review, we discuss the most important of these advances and their implications with regard to improved age control of archeological sites. We cover aspects of instrumental and methodological development that have facilitated the widespread measurement of single grains related to archeological questions and illustrate our review with some examples of where archeological problems have been resolved using single-grain OSL dating. We do not propose single-grain dating as a panacea, because there are instances where it is not straightforward to use or the results may be difficult to interpret; dating in such contexts remains the subject of continuing research.