Seven thousand years of alternative history: the tree-ring story.

  • M.G.L. Baillie School of Archaeology and Palaeoecology, Queen's University, Belfast.
Keywords: forestry literature, timbers, trade, climatic environments, ring patterns, mythological.


Little dendrochronological information finds its way into forestry literature, despite the interest that it has for foresters. Using radiocarbon dating and correlation analysis a 7272-year oak tree ring chronology has been established for Ireland. Ring patterns of successively older timbers have been overlapped far back in time using the ring patterns of living trees which overlap those of historic timbers, back to archaeological timbers and eventually naturally-preserved, sub-fossil 'bog' timbers. Ring patterns and anomalously wide and narrow individual rings are used to verify and supplement the historic record. The relative abundance of oak timbers at different times provides valuable clues to levels of woodland use, human population patterns and trade. Past climatic environments can also be reconstructed using ring patterns. Dendrochronology provides tantalising evidence for the factual basis of a number of mythological events. Further development of the technique is likely to lead to improved understanding of past environments.
How to Cite
Baillie, M. (1999). Seven thousand years of alternative history: the tree-ring story. Irish Forestry. Retrieved from
Conference Papers