Ann Wintle: luminescence dating as detective work

Ann Wintle contemplates similar reasons for enjoying detective fiction and luminescence dating.

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And aside from the geography, what’s the appeal of detective fiction?

I like trying to work out what’s gone on and try and solve it, but I never do [laughs]. And I guess that’s – it’s something that links across to my work, in the sense that I feel all the time I’m trying to solve a murder after it’s taken place, so that there’s a – erm, it’s a mystery. It’s something that you – something has happened, you don’t know why it’s happened or how it’s happened. Well, you know how but not why or by whom. And I think it’s just trying to put – just seeing other people put logical arguments together and then trying to follow them yourself. I think that’s why I enjoy crime fiction. 

What are the key mysteries in luminescence dating, is it the – [Laughs] You talked about the – not knowing precisely where a grain – where a piece of quartz has been, the sort of life history of the piece of quartz, how it’s ended up being where it is.


And how that relates to what – the signal you’re getting from it.

That’s – that exactly – that’s one strand of it is, you know, you get a signal – you measure the signal coming out of it and you know that it – that within that somewhere is certainly something telling you the amount of time that’s taken place since it was deposited. So you want to know how to get that time as accurate and precisely as possible. The other questions are trying to work out what happens to your signal if you do this, this and this to it, heat it, irradiate it, bleach it with light, and then you should be able to understand the system well enough to know exactly what it’s going to look like – the signal will look like at the end of that point, and doesn’t always come out looking like that. And that is intriguing and so why, and then trying to - you know, basically you’re interrogating your suspect. You’re trying to get, you know, trying to get your grains to tell you how they behave. And they’re like completely reluctant suspects; they don’t want to tell you what they’ve done. They may or may not be good witnesses. So that’s – and also, erm, just – basically seeing how reliable the grain behaviour is. So that – that again is always - you know, and is it the same for all grains or - you know, you get quartz from different places and it behaves slightly differently and it’s - you know, it’s just like human beings: they’re all variable [laughs].

  • Interviewee Ann Wintle
  • Duration 00:02:46
  • Copyright British Library Board
  • Interviewer Paul Merchant
  • Date of interview 11/11/2011
  • Shelfmark C1379/57

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