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Thermoluminescence dating is used for material where radiocarbon dating is not available, like sediments.

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For artworks, it may be sufficient to confirm whether a piece is broadly ancient or modern (that is, authentic or a fake), and this may be possible even if a precise date cannot be estimated.Different materials vary considerably in their suitability for the technique, depending on several factors.Subsequent irradiation, for example if an x-ray is taken, can affect accuracy, as will the "annual dose" of radiation a buried object has received from the surrounding soil.Thermoluminescence dating presupposes a "zeroing" event in the history of the material, either heating (in the case of pottery or lava) or exposure to sunlight (in the case of sediments), that removes the pre-existing trapped electrons.Therefore, at that point the thermoluminescence signal is zero.

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