A new, widely applicable method to obtain well-constrained relative sea-level records, presented here, relies on optical dating of inorganic coastal landforms and sediments. Eighteen optical ages of basal dune sand from a barrier in Massachusetts, United States, indicate that local relative sea level rose 8 m during the past 5.5 k.y. A sea-level curve drawn from these optical ages shows good agreement with independent evidence from salt-marsh peat sampled behind the barrier, demonstrating the reliability of the method. Optical dating will be particularly useful in analyzing coastal records that contain too few organic indicators to allow high-resolution, 14C-based analyses.

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