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While not so accurate as radiocarbon dating, which cannot date pottery (except from soot deposits on cooking pots), TL has found considerable usefulness in the authenticity of ceramic art objects where high precision is not necessary.
Finally, one has to make the measurements regardless of whether the TL of the clay is well-behaved or not.
The TL laboratory at Daybreak was established in 1977 to make TL available to the art community in general. Studies at Oxford back in the 70s on Romano-British pottery indicated that when all quantities entering the age equation are measured, the TL date of a single potsherd will typically fall within 15 per cent of the known date.
When dates of a number of sherds associated together are averaged, the error is reduced typically to 7-10 per cent. The succeeding 30 years, and increased understanding of the dosimetry, have not brought much improvement.
By comparing this light output with that produced by known doses of radiation, the amount of radiation absorbed by the material may be found.
Most mineral materials, including the constituents of pottery, have the property of thermoluminescence (TL), where part of the energy from radioactive decay in and around the mineral is stored (in the form of trapped electrons) and later released as light upon strong heating (as the electrons are detrapped and combine with lattice ions).