Optical Dating (OSL)

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Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) Dating is an estimation of the last time sediment or rock was exposed to sunlight (i.e., the burial age). Optical dating is a technique that was invented in the Physics Department at Simon Fraser University in the mid-1980s by Prof. David J. Huntley. It immediately gained the attention of the media and researchers around the world. This BC-invented technique has revolutionized earth sciences and archaeology in that we can now derive absolute ages for climate-sensitive sedimentary landforms (e.g. sand dunes, beaches, river beds, etc.) and artefacts that are up to 500,000 years old. This helps us, not only to understand how the earth’s surface responds to shifts in long- and short-term climate, but also the history of human settlement and migration.  The University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) Luminescence Dating Laboratory, the only laboratory of its kind in western Canada, is currently collaborating with the other BC universities (UVic and SFU) and BC’s Hakai Institute on several research projects related to understanding climate driven changes to BC’s coast. Researchers from UFV have been using OSL to help age clam gardens on Quadra Island. By extracting sediment cores from the clam garden terrace and wall researchers are helping determine when clam gardens on Quadra Island were first constructed and how they were maintained through time.

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