Sample Collection Instructions

Heated Materials

Burided Sediments

Shipment of Samples





The laboratory is involved in a number of research projects, both those initiated by the laboratory and those initiated by other institutions where the laboratory is sub-contractor.  Some of the projects funded by the National Science Foundations are described in the “NSF Projects” link.  Data from these projects are also made available. 

The lab offers a dating service for dating pottery, burned rocks or lithics, and  buried sediments.  Costs are negotiable but generally we charge $400 per ceramic or lithic sample and $1000 per sediment sample.  These include indirect costs associated with using University facilities.  Turn around times for ceramics and lithics are dependent on sample size and laboratory backlog.  For ceramics, this averages about 6 months to a year, for sediments, sometimes longer.  Quicker times can be negotiated in special circumstances.  Luminescence dating is highly dependent on localized variables, so in no case can we guarantee success in dating.  Our past performance, however, suggests that we achieve dates that agree with independent dating evidence (which itself is not always accurate) more than 85 percent of the time.  First right of publication of dates belongs to the client, but the laboratory reserves the right to use for publication any data generated in the processing of the date.

For researchers applying for grant money to fund luminescence dating, the laboratory will be happy to assist in writing the grant proposal or offer other consulting services at no charge.

The laboratory is also considered a teaching laboratory.  A number of UW undergraduate and graduate students work in the lab.   It is possible for students from other institutions to conduct dating research in the laboratory, although funding (mainly for living expenses in Seattle) must be provided by the student.

Clients interested in using our dating service are advised to contact the laboratory before collecting samples for a feasibility assessment.  For sediment dating, it is also advisable to have a luminescence specialist visit the site.  Collection instructions are included as a link to this site.


Luminescence dating is applied to nonmetallic materials.  Two classes of materials can be dated: heated materials (primarily ceramics and burned lithics) and buried sediments.  The former is dated to the last heating to at least 500°C.  The latter is dated to the last exposure to sufficient daylight. 
The instructions found at the links to the left discuss heated materials first.  If that is all that the archaeologist is interested in dating, the instructions for buried sediments are of no concern.  It should be noted that collection of a sediment sample is required in dating of heated materials.  This is for measuring external dose rates and should not be confused with collecting sediments for dating, which require different procedures.