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It will often work well with stones that have been heated by fire.The clay core of bronze sculptures made by lost wax casting can also be tested.
Once all components of the radiation field are determined, the accumulated dose from the thermoluminescence measurements is divided by the dose accumulating each year, to obtain the years since the zeroing event.
Thermoluminescence dating is used for material where radiocarbon dating is not available, like sediments.
In order to relate the signal (the thermoluminescence—light produced when the material is heated) to the radiation dose that caused it, it is necessary to calibrate the material with known doses of radiation since the density of traps is highly variable.
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.
Another important technique in testing samples from a historic or archaeological site is a process known as Thermoluminescence testing, which involves a principle that all objects absorb radiation from the environment.