Luminescence dating has a proud history of association with archaeology, beginning almost half a century ago. The subsequent decades of research have seen a range of archaeometric applications of luminescence dating: from fired pottery and burnt flints to sediments incorporated into occupation deposits and earthen constructions. Important contributions have been made to topics as diverse as modern human origins, continental colonisations and the dating of prehistoric rock art. This paper provides an overview of these applications, with a particular focus on recent findings such as those from Tabun Cave in Israel, Diring Yuriakh in Siberia, and Jinmium in Australia. © 1998 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.