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Reading: Southwestern (U.S.A.) Archaeological Tree-Ring Dating: 1930-1942


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Southwestern (U.S.A.) Archaeological Tree-Ring Dating: 1930-1942


Stephen E. Nash

Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, The University of Arizona Tucson, Arizona, US
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Dendrochronology, the science of assigning precise and accurate calendar dates to annual growth rings in trees (Stokes and Smiley 1968), was the first independent dating technique available to prehistorians. Ar­chaeological tree-ring dating came of age at a time when North American archaeologists concerned them­selves primarily with time/space systematics (Willey and Sabloff 1980) and yet had no absolute and inde­pendent dating techniques available to guide their analyses.

Histories of archaeology typically have not considered the development of archaeological tree-ring dating in detail. Willey and Sabloff (1980:12) devote one paragraph to the development of Southwestern archaeological tree-ring dating, as does Steibing (1993:261). Trigger (1989:305) considers dendrochronology (in the sense of the Douglass method) only in light of radiocarbon dating. Textbooks and regional histories of archaeology do a little better in their treat­ment of dendrochronology, though discussions typically focus on the interpretation of tree-ring dates and not on the developmental history of the technique itself (e.g. Cordell 1984:88-90; Fagan 1991:129-133; Lyon 1996:46; Michels 1973:116; Thomas 1979:190-194). Scott (1966:9) argues that 'the story of the discovery of archaeological tree-ring dating by A E. Douglass and others has been told and retold and is now familiar to scientists and laymen alike'. I beg to differ.
How to Cite: Nash, S.E., 1997. Southwestern (U.S.A.) Archaeological Tree-Ring Dating: 1930-1942. Bulletin of the History of Archaeology, 7(2), pp.1–30. DOI:
Published on 20 Nov 1997.
Peer Reviewed


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