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BayCEER - Bayreuth Center of Ecology and Environmental Research

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Lecture series in Ecology and Environmental Research WS 2015/16

Dr. Christoph Schmidt
Geomorphology, BayCEER, University of Bayreuth (Homepage)
Thursday, 19.11.2015 12:00-13:30, H6, GEO

Of trapped electrons and their relevance in tracing landscape evolution and human history

Both geosciences and archaeology rely on robust chronological markers in environmental archives and excavations to solve their research questions adequately: Ordering events, revealing causal relationships and interregional parallelisation of terrestrial archives require sound age control.

For more than 50 years now, geographers and archaeologists make use of the environmental radioactivity for dating purposes. Its ionising radiation produces free electrons in natural minerals such as quartz and feldspar. These electrons may be stored in electron traps in buried minerals, and released again when they are exposed to heat or sunlight. During this re-setting event, the stored energy is set free and emitted in the form of light – luminescence. The integrated light sum (proportional to the trapped electron concentration) is thus a measure for the time elapsed since the last bleaching or heating event. The ability to record the time of last sunlight exposure or heating above 350 °C makes luminescence dating a unique dating tool for Quaternary sciences, covering an age range from a few 100 to more than 100,000 years.

This talk aims to present the basic principles of luminescence dating, but also demonstrates its abundant fields of applications as well as some examples of what role this technique plays in deciphering landscape evolution and human (pre-)history.

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The BayCEER Colloquium serves as an interdisciplinary platform for students, academics and interested citizens: during the lecture period, guests and members of BayCEER give insights into their research, which can then be discussed in plenary and in a relaxed atmosphere during the post-colloquium.

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