Essay on The Usefulness of Dendrochronology to Archaeology

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The Usefulness of Dendrochronology to Archaeology

Dendrochronology is a technique that has been in use for most of the twentieth century. Essentially the process revolves around tree rings. In a moderate environment, trees grow by one ring each year and thus, to an extent, by examining these ring sequences, it is possible to understand the conditions in which the tree grew, year by year. The resultant pattern is then comparable with patterns from other trees found in similar areas, growing under similar circumstances; types of ring can then be assigned to specific years. As well as their importance for studying climatic and environmental development, these tree ring patterns, ( the culmination of which are called chronologies ),
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Clearly, the more patterns that are examined and compared within an area, the accuracy of such a database will increase. Invariably however gaps in the chronologies will exist due to matters beyond present control, yet contemporary discoveries continue to fill in these gaps. For example in the Aegean area, the millennium from 500 B.C. to 500 A.D. was not well documented in this way. However the first 500 years have now possibly been clarified somewhat due to the discovery of a 513 year ring-sequence, in box timbers found in the Comacchio shipwreck. The sequence has been cross dated with other ring chronologies, yet is also dated by archaeologists to the last few decades B.C. by the discovery of several tons of lead ingots, stamped "Agrippa." This is significant also as it shows that dendrochronology works best, not just by itself, but when complimented with other evidence.
Similarly, the actual technique itself does not rely solely on ring width analysis. This is crucial as ring growth, and consequently appearance can be affected drastically by adverse environmental effects such as lightning and pollution etc. Human interference is also commonplace before and after the wood has been felled. Therefore methods such as neutron activation analysis, X-radiography and X-ray densitometry are employed in order to detect isotopes and trace elements, and to study chemical and morphological changes

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