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.