News FocusProfile: Zenobia Jacobs and Richard Roberts

New Light on Ancient Samples

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Science  06 May 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6030, pp. 658-659
DOI: 10.1126/science.332.6030.658-b

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Zenobia Jacobs and Richard Roberts of the University of Wollongong in Australia are pioneers in the technique of optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating, a method that measures the time since grains of either quartz or feldspar were exposed to light. The equipment measures the energy of electrons trapped in the grain's crystal lattices. Roberts and Jacobs's joint lab is in high demand these days (see main text), as is OSL dating itself. The reason? OSL is the only method that can be used to date the actual sediments in which archaeological materials are found, back to at least 200,000 years ago.