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When sediments cover an archaeological site they are exposed to light and the mineral grains are bleached.

Such events can be dated by luminescence methods and the age employed to determine the age of an archaeological site through its related sediments.

Jon Olley does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

Griffith University provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU.

A 150-m-long drilling core (YZ07) was retrieved from the southwest coast of the SYS on the northern flank of the Yangtze River delta.

This research was supported by the Three Tribal Groups of the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area and staff of Mungo National Park and the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area.

Despite great advances in the available scientific techniques for investigating the problem, answering the key question of how they became extinct has remained elusive.

Indeed, the same questions as those asked in the 19th century by scientists, such as the British comparative anatomist Sir Richard Owen and the Prussian scientist and explorer Ludwig Leichhardt, remain: were people responsible for their demise or was it climate change?

Stimulating samples using infrared light causes luminescence, the intensity of which varies depending on the amount of radiation absorbed.

Exposure to sunlight resets the luminescent signature and so the time period since the sediment was buried can be calculated.

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