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They can also be used to build databases of stream flow, drought severity, insect infestation, and other environmental variables that trees record while they grow.

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Ring patterns from newly collected specimens, such as those from archaeological sites, are then compared to the master chronology in order to provide a tree-ring date for that specimen. First, tree-ring dating is about matching patterns, not counting rings.Second, sample sizes must be large in order to understand tree-growth variability in a given region.It requires rigorous sample collection and preparation, methodical attention to detail, and deep knowledge of tree-growth characteristics and wood attributes across vast regions.Andrew Ellicott Douglass, an astronomer at the University of Arizona in Tucson, is considered the father of tree-ring dating.Archaeologists look at other trees of the same species in the area because they have the same ring patterns.

Together older trees and younger trees are used to create long, chronological, growth sequences that can help us date artifacts and archaeological sites that are hundreds, even, thousands of years old.He introduced the American public to the technique in a December 1929 article in entitled “Talkative Tree-Rings and the Tales They Tell.” In that article, Douglass published construction dates for six cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park (MVNP) in southwestern Colorado, including Balcony House, Cliff Palace, Oak Tree House, Spring House, Spruce Tree House, and Square Tower House.Although the exact dates Douglass published have long since been refined, his general dating has not changed: the vast majority of cliff dwellings were built and occupied in the mid-1200s.With fall coming to a close, there is no better time to talk about tree rings and their use in archaeology.You probably know that trees have rings, which you can see and count when you look at a stump after a tree has been cut, but did you know that the rings of a tree let you know how old it is?Third, one begins by studying living trees in a given area, cross-dating their ring series internally and working back in time to successively older specimens that are usually found as dead snags on the landscape or as construction beams in ancient dwellings.