Luminescence rock surface exposure and burial dating: a review of an innovative new method and its applications in archaeology

Publication Name

Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences


Luminescence rock surface burial and exposure dating approaches hold enormous potential to contribute to the archaeological sciences. These methods enable the dating of previously undatable archaeological site types and can be used to determine how and when lithic artefacts have been sequentially buried and transported. Studies have already used these approaches to overcome limitations of classical dating methods to constrain the ages of lithic artefact discard and post-depositional movement at surface scatter sites, to chronologically constrain rock art production by dating rockfall and exposure events, as well as dating a variety of rock-based archaeological features such as pavements, petroforms, megalithic structures, and walls. Here, we present a review of these developing methods, including an introduction to the underlying principles and applications, a series of case studies, and a discussion of the obstacles and complexities to be considered when applying these methods. We conclude with a discussion of future applications and developments, including direct dating of rock engravings, buried artefacts, megalithic stone structures, and chert artefacts. With ongoing work and applications, luminescence rock-surface dating has the potential to become widely applicable, shining new light on a diverse range of previously intractable archaeological contexts.

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Funding Sponsor

Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, Australian Research Council



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