The possibility of dating basalt using luminescence was tested on four samples with independent age control from Cima volcanic field, California, with the ultimate aim of assessing whether the technique could be used to date sediments on the surface of Mars. Previous analysis of these samples had demonstrated that the infrared stimulated luminescence (IRSL) signal is most suitable for dating as it showed the lowest fading rate among various luminescence signals. In this study, changes in equivalent dose as a function of preheat are described. The ages for the two youngest Cima samples agree with the independent ages based on cosmogenic nuclide measurements (12.0 +/- 0.8 ka). In the two older samples (dated to 320 and 580 ka by K-Ar), the luminescence behaviour is more complex and the form of the IRSL decay curve is seen to vary with dose. Mathematical fitting is used to isolate two components and their intensities are used to produce dose response curves. The slower component yields a larger equivalent dose. However, even using this component and after correction for fading, the ages obtained for the older samples are younger than the K-Ar ages. (c) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.