Dating site introduction template
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.
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.
Where there is a dip (a so-called "electron trap"), a free electron may be attracted and trapped.
As a crystalline material is heated during measurements the process of thermoluminescence starts.
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 US0–700 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 500C, which covers most ceramics, although very high-fired porcelain creates other difficulties.
It will often work well with stones that have been heated by fire.
The clay core of bronze sculptures made by lost wax casting can also be tested.