Can tree-ring chemistry reveal absolute dates for past volcanic eruptions?

Charlotte Pearson, Sturt W. Manning, Max Coleman, Kym Jarvis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Discussion of the significance of volcanically induced impacts on human history, the natural environment, and climate through the Holocene, has frequently stalled because of controversy concerning certain key volcanic eruptions and their precise relationships with the archaeological/environmental record. A major stumbling block in such debates is a failure to obtain precise and accurate dates for many of these key volcanic events. Most existing dates currently float against archaeological, historical, environmental, and climate data. A potential means to resolution lies with tree rings: These can be dated precisely by dendrochronology, are available from a wide range of loci around the world, and can record global climatic influences. It has been suggested that certain growth anomalies in dendrochronological sequences could offer "proxy" absolutely dated records of major, climatically effective, volcanic eruptions. However, this assertion has been widely disputed given the lack of a direct, positive, causal connection. The hypothesis that the required connection may be chemically encoded in individual annual growth rings from dated sequences is explored here both via review of existing literature on dendrochemical techniques, and by LA-ICP-MS chemical analysis of two tree ring sequences. It is concluded that dendrochemistry provides a promising means by which absolute dates may one day be attributed to key volcanic eruptions of pre-modern times.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1265-1274
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2005


  • Dating volcanic eruptions
  • Dendrochemistry
  • Dendrochronology
  • Tree-rings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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