Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


12 December 2010

Dendrochemical analysis of a tree-ring growth anomaly associated with the Late Bronze Age eruption of Thera

Charlotte L. Pearson, Darren S. Dale, Peter W. Brewer, Peter I. Kuniholm, Jeffrey Lipton & Sturt W. Manning Journal of Archaeological Science 36.6 (June 2009): 1206-1214.


The most marked tree-ring growth anomaly in the Aegean dendrochronological record over the last 9000 years occurs in the mid 17th century BC, and has been speculatively correlated with the impact of the Late Bronze Age eruption of Thera (Santorini). If such a connection could be proved it would be of major interdisciplinary significance. It would open up the possibility of a precise date for a key archaeological, geological and environmental marker horizon, and offer a direct tie between tree-ring and ice-core records some 3600 years ago. A volcanic explanation for the anomaly is highly plausible, yet, in the absence of a scientifically proven causal connection, the value of the proposed correlation is limited. In order to test the hypothesis, dendrochemical analysis via Synchrotron Radiation Scanning X-ray Fluorescence Microscopy (SXFM), Inductively Coupled Plasma Atomic Emission Spectroscopy (ICP-AES) and Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectroscopy (ICP-MS) was carried out on growth-ring series from four trees displaying the anomaly. Increases of sulfur, calcium, and rare earth elements following the onset of altered growth, plus concentration spikes of zinc and hafnium in the first affected growth-ring provide promising new evidence in support of a volcanic causal factor. Although a volcanic association is implied, the new data are not sufficient to prove a link to the exact eruption source.


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