The potential of tree-ring drought atlases for dating and provenancing archaeological timbers
Humans have relied on wooden timber material for the construction of buildings, trade, ships, artifacts, and works of art for many millennia. Using dendrochronological methods, it is often possible to develop to build internally cross-dated but undated ‘floating’ tree-ring chronologies using this historic wooden material. However, the dynamic nature of human mobility and long-distance transport of timber can often make it difficult to accurately date and provenance wooden material. Accurate dating of historical timbers can be challenging due to matches with multiple reference chronologies for different dates, while the provenance of timbers can sometimes be difficult to determine due to wide species distribution ranges that allow for multiple sourcing locations. Here we will showcase the potential of the tree-ring drought atlas network as a novel tool to date and provenance historical timbers. Case studies will include the i. provenancing of construction timbers used in multiple 19th and 20th century buildings in New York City that were sourced from relatively distant locations ii. and the provenancing and dating of a 19th century shipwreck found in the Golfo Nuevo, Argentina. Our results suggests that tree-ring drought atlases can be a powerful tool for dendroarchaeology to both date and provenance wooden material particularly when it is possible to build a robust chronology using multiple historical timbers at a site.