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Extending the range of optically stimulated luminescence using vein quartz and quartzite sedimentary pebbles

Bailiff, I.K. and Bridgland, D. and Cunha, Pedro P. (2021) 'Extending the range of optically stimulated luminescence using vein quartz and quartzite sedimentary pebbles.', Quaternary geochronology, 65 . p. 101180.


The feasibility of applying optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) techniques to obtain estimates of the burial age of lithic clasts in the form of pebbles of quartzose lithology is investigated in this study. We applied OSL measurement procedures to vein-quartz and quartzite pebbles from contexts at five sites with fluvial and coastal beach contexts of depositional age ranging from 500 ka to the mid Holocene. As in previous OSL studies with lithics, measured depth-dose profiles were interpreted to identify regions associated with key stages in the burial history of the pebbles, including the extent of pre-burial optical resetting, primary burial and any subsequent secondary stages of exposure to sunlight. While some of the pebbles had not been fully optically reset before burial, none were in field saturation, as commonly encountered with larger lithic clasts such as cobbles. The relatively low concentrations of radionuclides within vein-quartz and quartzite pebbles simplified the assessment of the radiation dose rate. OSL age estimates consistent with independent dating evidence were obtained for the three sites sampled in the UK (Langford Quarry, Leet Hill Quarry, Swanscombe Skull Site and Barnfield Pit) and one of two sites tested in Portugal (Forte Cão), whereas evidence of secondary optical bleaching detected in pebbles from a second site (Vale de Atela) underestimated the independent age for primary burial. The oldest depositional age of the contexts tested was ∼500 ka (Leet Hill Quarry), and for some of the pebbles tested there was the capacity to extend the potential dating range further as the age equivalence of the limiting value of De was in excess of 1 Ma. The advantages of working with smaller, portable, clasts in the form of pebbles and with a lithology of higher transparency opens up a wide range of potential applications, whether the depositional processes are environmental or anthropogenic in origin or modification.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:© 2021 This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license
Date accepted:05 April 2021
Date deposited:04 May 2021
Date of first online publication:14 April 2021
Date first made open access:14 April 2022

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