How Trees Tell Time: Dendrochronology

A chopped tree with distinctive rings.
A chopped tree showing distinctive rings. Image by MabelAmber from Pixabay.

This was my fifth article for Rob Nelson’s StoneAgeMan. It’s about dendrochronology, or the science of using tree rings to date archaeological sites to exact calendar years.

While many people know that they can tell how old a tree is by counting its rings, not everyone’s aware that they can use this same method to date archaeological sites going back tens of thousands of years!

Well, sort of.

Using dendrochronology to date archaeological sites isn’t as simple as counting rings: one has to count the rings on lots of trees from the same region whose lifespans overlap each other.

I explain how this “crossdating” method works in my article for StoneAgeMan. I also discuss why tree rings are the perfect tools for calibrating radiocarbon dating results, which have to be adjusted to account for historic carbon-14 fluctuations in the earth’s atmosphere.

Lastly, my article describes some of dendrochronology’s drawbacks, including its geographical limitations. Click below to read it!

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