Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Intended for use in future years
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 20 Hours. 10 x 2 hours
Seminars / Tutorials 2 Hours. 1 x 2 hours


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Exam 2 Hours   Unseen written exam. Answer two questions from four in two hours.  Resit has same format.  100%

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module, students will have :-

  • the scientific basis for each dating technique
  • the ability to select appropriate dating techniques
  • to ability to select appropriate types of material for dating


The major aim is to provide the student with the knowledge to judge which dating techniques are applicable to what materials and on what timescale. They should also gain an appreciation of recent developments in the techniques which will enable their application to new problems posed in the coming decade.

Brief description

This module explores at depth the basic principles of the major dating techniques used to establish timescales during the Quaternary Period. The equipment and measurement procedures are described so that the student is able to appreciate the laboratory work that is needed to obtain a date. The assumptions underlining each technique are examined so that its limitations can be deduced. For each technique a number of examples illustrating the above points will be given.


Lecture themes:

  • Radiocarbon
  • Radiocarbon calibration
  • Potassium-argon and argon-argon
  • Palaeomagnetism and fission track
  • Luminescence and electron spin resonance
  • Uranium series disequilibrium by alpha spectrometry
  • Thermal ionisation mass spectrometry
  • AMS radiocarbon dating
  • Accelerator mass spectrometry for cosmogenic isotopes
  • Rock weathering, cation-ratio and obsidian hydration
  • Amino acid racemization
Mid-term seminar - based on video using a number of techniques to solve a particular dating problem.


This module is at CQFW Level 6