Katherine Thompson, 31 years old
Dendrochronology is the formal term for tree-ring dating, the science that uses the growth rings of trees as a detailed record of climatic change in a region, as well as a way to approximate the date of construction for wooden objects of many types. As archaeological dating techniques go, dendrochronology is extremely precise: if the growth rings in a wooden object are preserved and can be tied into an existing chronology, researchers can determine the precise calendar year—and often season—the tree was cut down to make it. Radiocarbon dates which have been calibrated by comparison to dendrochronological records are designated by abbreviations such as cal BP, or calibrated years before the present. Tree-ring dating works because a tree grows larger—not just height but gains girth—in measurable rings each year in its lifetime. The rings are the cambium layer, a ring of cells that lies between the wood and bark and from which new bark and wood cells originate; each year a new cambium is created leaving the previous one in place. How large the cambium's cells grow in each year, measured as the width of each ring, depends on temperature and moisture—how warm or cool, dry or wet each year's seasons were. At its most basic, during dry years the cambium's cells are smaller and thus the layer is thinner than during dendrochronology of tree ring dating years. Not all trees can be measured or used without additional analytical techniques: not all trees have cambiums that are created annually.
Calibration is not only done before an analysis but also on analytical results as in the case of radiocarbon dating —an analytical method that identifies the age of a material that once formed part of the biosphere by determining its carbon content and tracing its age by its radioactive decay. Carbon is a naturally occurring isotope of the element carbon. Results of carbon dating dendrochronology of tree ring dating reported in radiocarbon years, and calibration is needed to convert radiocarbon years into calendar years. It should be noted that a BP notation is also used in other dating techniques but is defined differently, as in the case of thermoluminescence dating wherein BP is defined as AD It is also worth noting that the half-life used in carbon dating calculations is years, the value worked out by chemist Willard Libby, and not the more accurate value of years, which is known as the Cambridge half-life. Although it is less accurate, the Libby half-life was retained to avoid inconsistencies or errors when comparing carbon test results that were produced before and after the Cambridge half-life was derived. Radiocarbon measurements are based on the assumption that atmospheric carbon concentration has remained constant as it was in and that the half-life of carbon is years. Calibration of radiocarbon results is needed to account for changes in the atmospheric concentration of carbon over time.
Tree ring dating dendrochronology has been used in an attempt to extend the calibration of carbon dating earlier than historical records allow. The oldest living trees, such as the Bristlecone Pines Pinus longaeva of the White Mountains of Eastern California, were dated in by counting tree rings at 4, years old. This would mean they pre-dated the Flood which occurred around 4, years ago, taking a straightforward approach to Biblical chronology. Recent research on seasonal effects on tree rings in other trees in the same genus, the plantation pine Pinus radiata , has revealed that up to five rings per year can be produced and extra rings are often indistinguishable, even under the microscope, from annual rings.
Dendrochronology of tree ring dating
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Dendrochronology is the study of data from tree ring growth. Due to the sweeping and diverse applications of this data, specialists can come from many academic disciplines. There are no degrees in dendrochronology because though it is useful across the board, the method itself is fairly limited. Most people who enter into studying tree rings typically come from one of several disciplines:. Though dendrochronology also has uses for art historians, medieval studies graduates, classicists, ancient and historians due to the dendrochronology of tree ring dating to date some of the materials that the fields will be handling in their research projects. Typically, a bachelor's degree in any of the above disciplines are enough to study the data that comes out of dendrochronology.
Ron Towner from the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona explains the principles behind dendrochronology and why this dating method is valuable to archaeologists. Ron demonstrates how to accurately count tree-rings, and discusses the importance of patterns and master chronologies. Trees are often used to make analogies about the past. Family trees, the tree of life, getting back to your roots…. But beyond the powerful imagery that trees give us to represent our history, what can trees actually tell us about the past? Dendrochronology is the scientific method of tree-ring dating. Americans first developed it in the early 20th century and now "dendro" is a common method of chronology that is used by scientists all over the world. Dendrochronology has become a fundamental tool in science, for reinforcing and expanding on the timelines of historical and ecological events in the past. Dendrochronology operates on the principle that in temperate climates, like the southwestern United States, trees grow one ring every dendrochronology of tree ring dating.