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This provides a minimum age for the Middle Stone Age material at Blombos Cave.This page was contributed by Dr Georgina King from the Aberystwyth Luminescence Research Laboratory in the Institute for Geography and Earth Sciences. OSL is used on glacial landforms that contain sand, such as sandur or sediments in glacial streams. The aeolian sand and two other remnants of the sand dune formed against the coastal cliff were dated using optical dating.To determine the dose received since deposition, measurements were made on 5mg aliquots of purified quartz grains using the single-aliquot regenerative-dose (SAR) protocol.Hollie Wynne (Aberystwyth University) stirs OSL samples being treated with acid in the preparation lab of the Aberystwyth Luminescence Research Laboratory. We make an approximation of the number of trapped electrons by measuring the light that they emit following stimulation by light (hence the name of the technique, “Optically stimulated luminescence”). The way that we do this is through sampling sand from the landforms in opaque plastic tubes and taking the sample back to a luminescence laboratory where only red light conditions are used. Optically stimulated luminescence dating of glaciofluvial sediments on the Canterbury Plains, South Island, New Zealand. An aeolian sand unit overlies the Middle Stone Age deposits at Blombos Cave on the southern Cape coast.

OSL works because all sediments have some natural radioactivity, caused by the presence of uranium, thorium and potassium isotopes in heavy minerals such as zircons. This instrument stimulates the luminescence signal of the sand through shining the sample with blue or infrared light-emitting-didoes (LEDs), which give the electrons enough energy to escape their traps and recombine elsewhere, emitting a photon of light. We measure this emitted light (the luminescence) and this is the first stage towards measuring the sample age. The methods through which dose rates are calculated vary between different laboratories worldwide. The radiation dose rate is also measured in grays, but as we calculate the dose rate per thousand years, it is grays per thousand years (Gy/ka). A robust feldspar luminescence dating method for Middle and Late Pleistocene sediments.

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In addition to radiation from the surrounding sediment, OSL samples are affected by a cosmic dose rate, which reduces as the amount of sediment the sample is buried under increases.

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