What can ancient tree rings reveal about human history?

February 21, 2014
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PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — What can ancient tree rings reveal about human history?

Internationally-known researcher Peter Brewer, a research associate at the University of Arizona’s Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research in Tucson, Ariz., will present some of the findings of an archaeological project in the Mediterranean region that is, in part, using tree rings to date historical objects and explain what they can reveal about human history. The presentation will take place in the Harry and Laura Nohr Gallery on Wednesday, Feb. 26 from 6-7 p.m.

The dating and study of tree rings, or dendrochronology, is an interdisciplinary science that gives historical context to the present, explains current environmental processes and conditions, and improves understanding of future environmental issues.

In his presentation, Brewer will discuss the use of dendrochronology in archaeology, focusing on the work of the Aegean Dendrochronology Project and excavations that have been made in Yenikapı, Turkey.

The Aegean Dendrochronology Project began in 1973 and is now based at the University of Arizona. Researchers travel throughout the Aegean, Balkans and Eastern Mediterranean to collect tree-ring samples from wooden objects that were constructed over the past 9,000 years. Brewer will discuss findings from these sites as well as some of the challenges researchers face with this major, ongoing project.

Brewer is the chair of the International Tree-Ring Databank steering committee and is highly involved in software data standards projects in the dendrochronology community.

He has done extensive work creating software that is used around the world by the dendrochronology community. During his presentation, Brewer will discuss his role developing software that has facilitated the collection and management of the data collected for the Aegean Dendrochronology Project and others.

Brewer has been involved in a collaborative software development project conducted by Dr. Kun Tian, assistant professor of computer science and software engineering at UW-Platteville; Dr. Evan Larson, assistant professor of geography and co-director of the Tree-Ring, Earth, and Environmental Sciences Laboratory at UW-Platteville; and 16 of their students during the fall 2013 semester.

The project, made possible through a UW-Platteville Pioneer Academic Center for Community Engagement grant, resulted in the development of re-engineered software that is used internationally by researchers to manage and analyze fire history data to better understand the role of fire in the forests of the world.

Contact: Dr. Evan Larson, department of social sciences, (608) 342-6139, larsonev@uwplatt.edu and Dr. Kun Tian, College of Engineering, Mathematics and Science, (608) 342-1625, tiank@uwplatt.edu

Written by: Jena Garrett, College of Liberal Arts and Education, (608) 342-6191, garrettj@uwplatt.edu

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