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These slowly decay over time and the ionizing radiation they produce is absorbed by mineral grains in the sediments such as quartz and potassium feldspar.

The minerals that are measured are usually either quartz or potassium feldspar sand-sized grains, or unseparated silt-sized grains.

Luminescence dating refers to a group of methods of determining how long ago mineral grains were last exposed to sunlight or sufficient heating.

It is useful to geologists and archaeologists who want to know when such an event occurred.

The information is stored through charge trapping processes in populations of point defects in common minerals, and can be reset by heating (for ceramics and heated lithic materials) and/or exposure to light (for sediments and exposed rock surfaces).

Luminescence dating quantifies the radiation exposure experienced by target minerals (usually quartzes or feldspars) from the sample as an “equivalent dose”, measured in Grays (Gy), and representing the mean radiation dose which would reproduce the observed natural signal levels of the sample as prepared in the laboratory.

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