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Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Dendrochronology; The Method Of Dating Using Tree Rings

Abingdon Abbey, Berkshire, roof truss with pomegranate decoration on the infill.

For anyone that has seen our Twitter account, @RC_Survey, you may have picked up on #IfABursary that I have been using when out and about surveying or, in this case, when I was invited to the Oxford Dendrochronology Laboratory by Dr Dan Miles and Dr Martin Bridge. Over the last few months I have been fortunate enough to have spent time with Dan and Martin on fieldwork in Wales taking core samples, so the invite to see the next part of the process could not be missed. Having found their lab, hidden in the Oxfordshire countryside, the experience I gained was invaluable in understanding how each sample is prepared, measured, and then compared against their extensive database to produce a date or date range. Meticulous attention to detail was needed at all times, as missing a single tree ring or taking an incorrect measurement could potentially produce an inaccurate result and throw the date out by years, if not centuries. The following day I attended the Oxford Dendro Lab’s lecture and practical with the students from Oxford University’s MSc in Archaeological Science. Dan and Martin gave a very interesting lecture, with examples of how dendrochronology works and where the technique has been used to provide a definite date where dates have been disputed. This was followed by fieldwork taking samples at The Long Gallery, Abingdon Abbey, which the students were to prepare, measure and analyse as part of their course. The two days spent with Dan and Martin was very interesting and I hope to spend more time with them in the future to learn more about the tree-ring process.

Abingdon Abbey, Berkshire, exterior of the Long Gallery.

By Ross Cook, IfA/HLF Workplace Learning Bursary in Historic Building Survey and Interpretation.

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