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It is an absolute dating method, and does not depend on comparison with similar objects (as does obsidian hydration dating, for example).
The thermoluminescence technique is the only physical means of determining the absolute age of pottery presently available.
The age of the pottery, in principle, may then be determined by the relation Age = Accumulated dose / Dose per year Although conceptually straightforward, TL has proven to to be far from simple in practice.
Should I be concerned about artificial irradiation? If the radioactivity of the pottery itself, and its surroundings, is measured, the dose rate, or annual increment of dose, may be computed.
Much stoneware is not so hard as porcelain and may be sampled by drilling.
The clay cores from lost wax metal castings may readily be tested.
Heated stone material, such as hearths, pot boilers, and burnt flints, has been dated as well.
Some regions known to present problems for TL include Indonesia and West Mexico; objects from these areas usually do not successfully yield TL dates.
Generally speaking, when a sample is drilled and there is no information available about the burial environment, one may expect up to 40 per cent uncertainty.
This is adequate for the purposes of authentication where the question is whether the piece was fired in antiquity or recently; it will not differentiate, say, between a classic Greek terra cotta and a Roman copy.