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Luminescence dating of qanat technology: prospects for further development

Bailiff, I.K.; Jankowski, N.; Snape, L.M.; Gerrard, C.M.; Gutiérrez, A.; Wilkinson, K.N.

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N. Jankowski

L.M. Snape

K.N. Wilkinson


With few exceptions in which dating is implied by indirect association with adjacent settlements or incorporation of diagnostic artefacts in upcast sediment, individual qanats have proven very difficult to date. This absence of a chronological framework hampers both our understanding of technology transfer, as well as the study of local settlement and landscape evolution and the temporal correlation of land use with climatic and palaeoenvironmental data. However, surface shaft mounds potentially contain a sequence of upcast deposits collected periodically from the tunnel, starting with initial construction and persisting until the last maintenance episode, less any material lost by surface erosion. The sedimentary nature of the upcast lends itself to the application of luminescence dating to determine the burial age, in particular, using the techniques based on optically stimulated luminescence. We examine the results produced by two recent dating studies where luminescence techniques were applied to two qanat systems with the aim of building a chronostratigraphy for the deposits within their upcast mounds. These studies show that the extent to which a complete record of the deposition since initial construction survives may differ between qanat systems, and even shaft mounds within the same system. Providing there is a close coupling of luminescence and sedimentological analysis in the testing of qanat mounds, these formative studies suggest that there are good prospects for introducing a valuable tool in the study of various types of hydraulic feature where upcast has been preserved and guidance regarding further fieldwork is provided.


Bailiff, I., Jankowski, N., Snape, L., Gerrard, C., Gutiérrez, A., & Wilkinson, K. (2018). Luminescence dating of qanat technology: prospects for further development. Water History, 10(1), 73-84.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 1, 2018
Online Publication Date Mar 2, 2018
Publication Date Mar 2, 2018
Deposit Date Feb 1, 2018
Publicly Available Date Feb 2, 2018
Journal Water History
Print ISSN 1877-7236
Electronic ISSN 1877-7244
Publisher Springer
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 10
Issue 1
Pages 73-84


Accepted Journal Article (631 Kb)

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© The Author(s) 2018 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

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