Did You Know?
Leonardo da Vinci discovered that a tree‘s rings reveal its age.
Dendrochronology is the scientific method of dating tree rings (also called growth rings) to the exact year they were formed. As well as dating them this can give data for dendroclimatology, the study of climate and atmospheric conditions during different periods in history from wood.
Dendrochronology is useful for determining the precise age of samples, especially those that are too recent for radiocarbon dating, which always produces a range rather than an exact date. However, for a precise date of the death of the tree a full sample to the edge is needed, which most trimmed timber will not provide. It also gives data on the timing of events and rates of change in the environment (most prominently climate) and also in wood found in archaeology or works of art and architecture, such as old panel paintings. It is also used as a check in radiocarbon dating to calibrate radiocarbon ages.
The Greek botanist Theophrastus (c. 371 – c. 287 BC) first mentioned that the wood of trees has rings. In his Trattato della Pittura (Treatise on Painting), Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) was the first person to mention that trees form rings annually and that their thickness is determined by the conditions under which they grew. In 1737, French investigators Henri-Louis Duhamel du Monceau and Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon examined the effect of growing conditions on the shape of tree rings. hey found that in 1709, a severe winter produced a distinctly dark tree ring, which served as a reference for subsequent European naturalists. In the U.S., Alexander Catlin Twining (1801–1884) suggested in 1833 that patterns among tree rings could be used to synchronize the dendrochronologies of various trees and thereby to reconstruct past climates across entire regions.The English polymath Charles Babbage proposed using dendrochronology to date the remains of trees in peat bogs or even in geological strata (1835, 1838).