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The relatively short half-life of carbon-14, 5,730 years, makes dating reliable only up to about 50,000 years.
The technique often cannot pinpoint the date of an archeological site better than historic records, but is highly effective for precise dates when calibrated with other dating techniques such as tree-ring dating.
Heating an item to 500 degrees Celsius or higher releases the trapped electrons, producing light.
This light can be measured to determine the last time the item was heated. Fluctuating levels can skew results – for example, if an item went through several high radiation eras, thermoluminescence will return an older date for the item.
Many factors can spoil the sample before testing as well, exposing the sample to heat or direct light may cause some of the electrons to dissipate, causing the item to date younger.
Because of these and other factors, Thermoluminescence is at the most about 15% accurate.
In archaeology, absolute dating is usually based on the physical, chemical, and life properties of the materials of artifacts, buildings, or other items that have been modified by humans and by historical associations with materials with known dates (coins and written history).For example, techniques based on isotopes with half lives in the thousands of years, such as carbon-14, cannot be used to date materials that have ages on the order of billions of years, as the detectable amounts of the radioactive atoms and their decayed daughter isotopes will be too small to measure within the uncertainty of the instruments.One of the most widely used and well-known absolute dating techniques is carbon-14 (or radiocarbon) dating, which is used to date organic remains.After yet another 5,730 years only one-eighth will be left.By measuring the carbon-14 in organic material, scientists can determine the date of death of the organic matter in an artifact or ecofact.
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One of the most widely used is potassium–argon dating (K–Ar dating).