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Durham University

Department of Archaeology

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Publication details

Bailiff, I.K., Gerrard, C.M., Gutiérrez, A., Snape-Kennedy, L.M. & Wilkinson, K. N. (2015). Luminescence dating of irrigation systems: Application to a qanat in Aragon, Spain. Quaternary Geochronology 30(B): 452-459.

Author(s) from Durham


Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) techniques have been applied to investigate the potential for dating the deposition of upcast mounds associated with qanat ventilation shafts at the site of a medieval qanat located in Aragón, Spain. Coarse quartz grains, extracted from sediment samples taken from excavated sections of several mounds, possessed sufficiently strong OSL to enable an evaluation of equivalent dose by applying the single aliquot regenerative procedure to small aliquots, each containing an individual bright grain. The OSL dates for both palaeosol and overlying upcast indicate that a chronostratigraphic record has been preserved within the mounds investigated, and micromorphological analysis of thin sections of sediment blocks taken from the mounds is shown to provide an essential means of verifying the characteristics of the strata, in particular, the critical interface of upcast and the ancient ground surface. The earliest OSL dates for basal deposits taken from two separate sections of the same mound are in agreement, placing the mound construction during the first half of the 13th century A.D. However, in two other mounds the OSL dates for the deposition of upcast are internally consistent with the stratigraphy but significantly later, dating to the 16th and 17th centuries A.D. We interpret the differences between the dates for the upcast deposition to be the result of partial erosion of the upper shaft and later repair of the mounds, and this finding underlines the importance of both examining multiple mounds in the same qanat system and the internal structure of each sampled mound. This exploratory work demonstrates the potential for wider application of OSL for dating this important type of subterranean irrigation feature in the study of both the archaeology of human settlement and palaeoenvironmental change in arid regions.

Department of Archaeology

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