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Keywords:

  • optically stimulated luminescence;
  • glaciofluvial lithofacies;
  • Devensian;
  • heterogeneous bleaching;
  • statistical ‘age’ models

Abstract

In the British and Irish Isles, the understanding of expansion and retreat of the last ice sheet in Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 2 has been hindered by a lack of chronological control for the timing of its maximum extent and subsequent retreat stages. In this research, a suite of lithofacies from a former distal ice marginal sandur at Orrisdale, Isle of Man, were identified and selected for optically stimulated luminescence dating. Different-size fractions of quartz grains were extracted from selected lithofacies types with the aim of identifying which depositional environments and grain size fractions are best suited for optical dating. Tests have been undertaken to identify the luminescence properties of this quartz, including preheat dose recovery and constant-wave optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) decay curve fitting. Equivalent dose distributions for all samples were wide and positively skewed, indicative of heterogeneous bleaching. A comprehensive statistically based decision-making protocol has been defined in order to find the appropriate statistical model for burial dose estimation. Ages in the range of 17–14 ka have been obtained which agree with the expected geologically constrained chronology. The Orrisdale Formation is contemporaneous with Heinrich Event 1 and the Killard Point Stadial identified in eastern Ireland ca. 16.4 ka. The suggested approach for OSL dating of glaciofluvial sediments has the potential for much wider application to high latitude or temperate areas where there is an abundance of such sediments and where improved chronological control is much needed. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.