Dendrochronology: How Tree-Ring Dating Reveals Human Roots

Matthew Bekker, Geography Department Geologists use various dating techniques to determine the ages of geologic phenomena. Dendrochronology- the analysis of annual growth-rings in trees- is one of these methods Stoffel and Bollschwieler, Unlike other dating procedures, it can determine the exact years in which various events occurred. Such events include earthquakes, which produce distinct responses in tree-ring growth patterns Jacoby, Dendrochronologic research has been done by my mentor on normal faults in the western United States. Plate boundaries have been researched extensively. Away from these, dendrochronologic earthquake studies are rare, including those by Bekker and Sheppard We have obtained preliminary results for research at a site in Utah, where such a study has never been done. Additional research has potential to continue until my graduation, three years from now.

Research illuminates inaccuracies in radiocarbon dating

Growth rings are the result of new growth in the vascular cambium, a lateral meristem, and are synonymous with secondary growth. Visible rings result from the change in growth speed through the seasons of the year, thus, one ring usually marks the passage of one year in the life of the tree. The rings are more visible in temperate zones, where the seasons differ more markedly. The growth rings of an unknown tree species, at Bristol Zoo, England The inner portion of a growth ring is formed early in the growing season, when growth is comparatively rapid hence the wood is less dense and is known as “early wood” or “spring wood” or “late-spring wood.

Are tree-ring chronologies reliable? The following article is abstracted from The Biblical Chronologist Volume 5, Number 1. Full details and references can be found there. Basic Concepts of Dendrochronology.

Though they may know it as carbon dating or carbon 14 dating, there is an understood notion that when anything old is found, like an ancient artifact, it can be radiocarbon dated to find out exactly how old it is. Yet, as simple and straightforward as this seems, the process of dating objects via radiocarbon is far from simple and straightforward. Here I will present what radiocarbon is, the dating methods, the assumptions that govern them, and the known discrepancies that plague the method.

With a thorough understanding of this dating method, it is my opinion that its ingenious fundamentals can be appreciated, yet greatly overshadowed by its limitations. Radiocarbon Every day cosmic rays bombard our atmosphere. These cosmic rays release free neutrons which zip around our nitrogen rich atmosphere at high velocities. As the Carbon 14 slowly descends into our lower atmosphere it bonds with oxygen becoming the very unpopular CO2 greenhouse gas Bowman, Though the vast majority of CO2 is comprised of the more common and stable isotope of carbon, carbon 12 C12 , a small fraction of CO2 one in million , contains C


Dendrochronology is the technique by which we can identify the age of a piece of wood by studying the growth rings it contains. In this article we shall examine how it works, how we know it works, and the limitations of the technique. How dendrochronology works[ edit ] It is a well-known fact that many tree genera will produce one new growth ring each year.

Dendrochronology, or ‘tree ring dating‘ as it is often known, can provide an invaluable insight into the history of a building by revealing the year in which the timbers used in its construction were felled.

Measurement of N, the number of 14 C atoms currently in the sample, allows the calculation of t, the age of the sample, using the equation above. The above calculations make several assumptions, such as that the level of 14 C in the atmosphere has remained constant over time. The calculations involve several steps and include an intermediate value called the “radiocarbon age”, which is the age in “radiocarbon years” of the sample: Radiocarbon ages are still calculated using this half-life, and are known as “Conventional Radiocarbon Age”.

Since the calibration curve IntCal also reports past atmospheric 14 C concentration using this conventional age, any conventional ages calibrated against the IntCal curve will produce a correct calibrated age. When a date is quoted, the reader should be aware that if it is an uncalibrated date a term used for dates given in radiocarbon years it may differ substantially from the best estimate of the actual calendar date, both because it uses the wrong value for the half-life of 14 C, and because no correction calibration has been applied for the historical variation of 14 C in the atmosphere over time.

The different elements of the carbon exchange reservoir vary in how much carbon they store, and in how long it takes for the 14 C generated by cosmic rays to fully mix with them. This affects the ratio of 14 C to 12 C in the different reservoirs, and hence the radiocarbon ages of samples that originated in each reservoir.


Staff What is dendrochronology Dendrochronology or tree-ring dating has been available as a recognized scientific technique since the early s. Simply stated, trees in temperate zones and some in tropical zones grow one visible ring per calendrical year. For the entire period of a tree’s life, a year-by-year record or ring pattern is formed that in some way reflects the climatic and environmental conditions in which the tree grew.

These patterns can be compared and matched ring for ring with trees growing in the same geographical zone and under similar climatic conditions. Following these tree-ring patterns, the sum of which we refer to as chronologies, from living trees back through time, we can thus compare wood from old or ancient structures to our known chronologies, match the ring patterns a technique we call cross-dating , and determine precisely the age of the wood used by the ancient builder.

The exact dating carbon dating methods, especially for dendrochronology can be improved? A few notes on the answer offer dendrochronology scientific dating, dated through study of annual rings. Ron towner explains the mississippi drainage.

C14 formation and decay is not in equilibrium Radiocarbon forming 28 – 37 faster than it is decaying Melvin A. The carbon14 concentration increases rather steadily during this time These results confirm the change in carbon14 concentration Major trend in the plot of dendrochronology vs. Dates above dashed zero line overestimate tree-ring ages dates below underestimate tree-ring ages Taylor, , Figure 2.

Local Effects and Specimen Variability? And a respected Egyptologist says similarly I am mistrustful. Some archaeologists have said that if they attempt to publish 14C dates contradicting archaeo-historical chronologies, their papers are rejected Nelson et al. One archaeologist, reviewing the situation for the eastern Mediterranean, concluded blandly radiocarbon dates are invoked if they support a particular hypothesis and dismissed if they do not” Merrillees Less C14 production Older apparent age What if a very large catastrophe came along that buried a whole lot of Carbon 12?

Brown, The Implications of C14 Age vs. Depth Profile Characteristics, Origins.

Radiocarbon Tree-Ring Calibration

Dendrochronology The study of time chronology as reflected in tree dendro growth. In seasonal climates, trees preserve a continuous record of annual events, in particular, climate. Dendrochronology, the study of the annual growth in trees, is the only method of paleoenvironmental research that produces proxy data of consistently annual resolution. Trees add a cone of wood each year. Initially the cells are thin walled to conduct the abundant spring soil moisture.

Sep 24,  · dendrochronology. riparian. floodplain. The annual precision of dating allowed the identification of synchronous stand-replacing fire years among the sites, and co-occurrence with regional surface fire events previously reconstructed from a network of fire scar collections in lower elevation pine forests across the southwestern United.

History[ edit ] The Greek botanist Theophrastus ca. In , the German-American Jacob Kuechler — used crossdating to examine oaks Quercus stellata in order to study the record of climate in western Texas. Kapteyn — was using crossdating to reconstruct the climates of the Netherlands and Germany. Douglass sought to better understand cycles of sunspot activity and reasoned that changes in solar activity would affect climate patterns on earth, which would subsequently be recorded by tree-ring growth patterns i.

Wood Diagram of secondary growth in a tree showing idealised vertical and horizontal sections. A new layer of wood is added in each growing season, thickening the stem, existing branches and roots, to form a growth ring.

Radiocarbon Tree-Ring Calibration

A good year for growth will be recorded by a wider ring in all trees affected, whatever their age, like an annual date stamp. The outermost ring records the year that the tree was felled. Dendrochronology, or ‘tree ring dating‘ as it is often known, can provide an invaluable insight into the history of a building by revealing the year in which the timbers used in its construction were felled.

It was discovered early in the 20th century that trees of the same species in the same region displayed remarkably similar ring patterns across the tree trunk and in the end grain of timber beams. Each year a tree gains another ring as it grows; the thickness of which depends on the amount of growth. In a year with ideal growing conditions, trees will produce a wider ring than in a year with poor conditions, and all the trees in the same region are likely to display the same general chronological growth pattern, despite any local ecological variations.

Tree ring dating (dendrochronology) Tree ring dating. The extended tree ring chronologies are far from absolute, in spite of the popular hype. Chronological Markers and Dendrochronology – Timing is Everything, Part 2.

Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of two of the following archaeological dating techniques: Radiocarbon dating; Dendrochronology; Thermoluminescence; Amino-Acid Racemization; Archaeomagnetic dating This essay will consider both the inherent strengths and weaknesses of Radiocarbon dating and Dendrochronology, and also the ways in which these techniques can be applied inappropriately.

As might be expected, each of the techniques has limitations and conditions under which it can be applied; it is when the technique is applied to conditions outside these limitations, perhaps for reasons of interpretative determinism, that the integrity of the technique is undermined. The analysis of each technique is focussed on the following factors: A strength of a technique might lie in its ability to provide additional insights into environmental conditions, but a weakness of a technique might be found in the tenuous link between the dating subject and the context in which it is used to date Additional to these factors could be a multitude of other considerations not strictly properties of the technique itself.

For example, the processes by which the technique is performed and the associated skills and knowledge required to produce accurate determinations will necessarily impact the availability of the technique, but availability and the associated monetary cost is not an intrinsic property of the technique itself. In order to evaluate the technique itself, an idealised situation will be considered, whereby it is assumed that an archaeologist would have equal and otherwise unbiased access to a range of dating techniques, and it remains only to choose the one most appropriate to the situation at hand.

Radiocarbon Dating Applicability Most of the 14C in the atmosphere originates in the action of cosmic rays on Nitrogen in the upper atmosphere.


At higher temperatures, CO 2 has poor solubility in water, which means there is less CO 2 available for the photosynthetic reactions. The enrichment of bone 13 C also implies that excreted material is depleted in 13 C relative to the diet. This increase in 14 C concentration almost exactly cancels out the decrease caused by the upwelling of water containing old, and hence 14 C depleted, carbon from the deep ocean, so that direct measurements of 14 C radiation are similar to measurements for the rest of the biosphere.

The first and simplest method of absolute dating is using objects with dates inscribed on them, such as coins, or objects associated with historical events or documents.

Carbon is a weakly radioactive isotope of Carbon; also known as radiocarbon, it is an isotopic chronometer. C dating is only applicable to organic and some inorganic materials not applicable to metals. Gas proportional counting, liquid scintillation counting, and accelerator mass spectrometry are the three principal radiocarbon dating methods. Radiocarbon measurements are reported as Conventional Radiocarbon Age.

What is Radiocarbon Dating? Radiocarbon dating is a method that provides objective age estimates for carbon-based materials that originated from living organisms. The impact of the radiocarbon dating technique on modern man has made it one of the most significant discoveries of the 20th century.

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Biblical Archaeology Dating Methods The following paper was submitted in partial completion of a Doctoral level study in Biblical Archaeology. It is posted here to help others in their studies and understanding of Archaeological Dating Methods. In this paper we will examine radiocarbon, dendrochronology, and thermo luminescence as dating methods used in archaeology.

The various dating techniques available to archaeologists by Michael G. Lamoureux, March/April Introduction. Today’s archaeologist has a wide variety of natural, electro-magnetic, chemical, and radio-metric dating methodologies available to her that can be used to accurately date objects that are just a few hundred years old as well as objects that are a few million years old with high.

Tree rings are used to calibrate radiocarbon measurements. Calibration is necessary to account for changes in the global radiocarbon concentration over time. Results of calibration are reported as age ranges calculated by the intercept method or the probability method, which use calibration curves. The internationally agreed calibration curves for the period reaching as far back as BC are those produced by PJ Reimer et al.

Calibration curves have a dendro timescale on the x-axis and radiocarbon years on the y-axis. 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 are 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.

The most popular and often used method for calibration is by dendrochronology.

Is Carbon Dating Reliable?

What about radiocarbon dating? I asked several people who know about this field. Their responses are numbered below. C14 dating is very accurate for wood used up to about 4, years ago.

Dendrochronology (or tree-ring dating) is the scientific method of dating tree rings (also called growth rings) to the exact year they were formed in order to analyze atmospheric conditions during different periods in history.

As an Environmental Science teacher, I use numerous PLT activities throughout the year that encourage students to get outdoors. The unit that most vividly depicts my success in getting students outside is dendrochronology. For more ideas on how PLT can help you take your students outside, visit www. Simply put, dendrochronology is tree ring dating. It is also used as a record of climate changes and events in human history within a region.

The students then go outside and participate in aging a living tree with an increment borer. Students can then create their own, personal tree cookies in a variety of different ways. A fun way to do so outdoors involves using sidewalk chalk to draw a large tree cookie on a section of pavement. Students can then share their life experiences with others using their concrete cookie as an illustration.

This can be caused by a number of events, including insect infestation and fire. Students see examples of how this insect attacks the tree and damages it.

Tree-Ring Dating Rewrites History