Institute of Archaeology

Dendrochronology and tree-ring studies

Dendrochronology has established a dating framework for many archaeological studies, most notably in the fields of vernacular architectural history and art-history, but has also proved valuable in more ecological and geographical studies of landscape history and climate reconstruction. This course will look at the fundamental principles of tree-ring dating, and its development in various parts of the world, but with the emphasis mostly on Western Europe. Attention will be given to practical aspects of the science, giving an overall appreciation of the strengths and limitations of the methodology. Now that so many individual dates have been accumulated, the synthesis of the data to derive new insights into the development of carpentry techniques and their spread, as well as woodland history and trade in wood will be investigated. The role of tree-ring studies in determining the source areas of trees used in historical objects (dendroprovenancing) will be investigated.  The use of tree-ring studies in ecological, geomorphological, and climatic reconstruction will be outlined.

Aims and Objectives of the course

This course offers the opportunity to become familiar with an area of archaeological dating that has given a timeframe for many other studies, influencing views on the development of wood-working techniques, shipbuilding, art (oil paintings on oak boards), and even ceramics.
It aims:

  • To give a broad outline history of dendrochronology
  • To introduce students to the theory and practice of dendrochronological dating.
  • To understand the strengths and limitations of the science.
  • To appreciate the difficulties and potential of dendroprovenancing.
  • To understand the wider applications of the science beyond pure dating.

Learning Outcomes

  • On completion of this course, students should have an overview of the theoretical and practical aspects of dendrochronology and be able to recognise the possibilities and limitations of the methodology.
  • They should be capable of recognising in which circumstances the application of the methodology would be appropriate and where it is less likely to be worthwhile.
  • They should be able to critically interpret dendrochronological reports.

Teaching Methods

Teaching will take place as an intensive one-week, 40 hour, short course during the Reading Week of Term 2. The course will be open to continuing education students.  For MA/MSc students, assessment will be due in at the start of Term 3.

Teaching will consist of a number of lectures and discussions, with some practical sessions. There will be a recommended reading list. The course will be assessed via a project report and one essay.

Course information

  • Code: ARCLG231
  • Credits: 30
  • Coordinator: Martin Bridge
  • Prerequisite: None - although a basic level of understanding of statistics would be advantageous to get the most out of this course
  • Handbook:

For registered students

  • Moodle page:
  • Reading list: 


  • Not running in 2016-17

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