The Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research (LTRR) at the University of Arizona is the sole source of archaeological tree-ring dates in western North America. With continuing National Science Foundation (NSF) support, LTRR operates an analysis program for tree-ring samples collected by LTRR and other archaeologists from Alaska to Peru and from the Pacific Ocean to the Mississippi River. NSF support allows the program to keep pace with the ever growing demand for archaeological tree-ring dating, information, and assistance and to maintain high production levels and short turnaround times. On average, more than 1,000 dates from 4,000+ archaeological tree-ring samples are produced annually. These data are integrated into relevant archaeological contexts to construct refined cultural sequences and examine important issues of past human behavior that cannot be addressed without accurate, high resolution temporal control. Among these topics are absolute site, locality, and regional chronologies, social organization, intergroup interaction, and cultural adaptation to physical and social environments. In addition, the program promotes the expansion of archaeological tree-ring dating into new regions such as the Southwestern deserts, Great Basin, Great Plains, Rocky Mountains, Alaska, and Mexico.

The project has additional intellectual merits. Exact dating and chronology building are crucial to understanding human behavior, human-environment interactions, and processes of sociocultural stability, variation, change, and evolution. Either directly or indirectly (through tree-ring dated ceramics), tree-ring dating underlies the chronology of Southwestern prehistory and many aspects of the documented history of the region. The project also generates dendroclimatic reconstructions that are combined with reconstructions produced by other paleoenvironmental disciplines such as geology, pollen analysis, volcanology, and trace element studies. In addition to illuminating past environmental processes, these integrated reconstructions provide a solid empirical foundation for examining the interrelationships between human behavior and environmental variability. Finally, the project's efforts to expand research into areas previously thought to be unsuitable for archaeological tree-ring provide absolutely dated "hinge points" for archaeological chronologies in the Sonoran Desert, the Great Basin, the western Great Plains, and northern Mexico.

The project has a wide range of broader impacts. Its findings are almost immediately integrated into undergraduate and graduate classes in anthropology, geosciences, and other disciplines at the University of Arizona and other academic institutions. In addition, the project interacts with K-12 programs, provides instruction for visiting scholars from around the world, and facilitates field and laboratory training for governmental, private, and Native American programs. The LTRR tree-ring sample collections and data archives are unparalleled, easily accessed resources for archaeological research, and an under-construction digital database will enhance the research value of these resources. Increased understanding of long-term human adaptation to cultural and environmental variability and enhanced knowledge of past environmental processes help develop and implement environmental and social policy. Project personnel have contributed directly to formulating policy for managing cultural and natural resources by federal, local, and tribal land management agencies.

Project Report

Submitted by Jeffrey S. Dean and Ronald H. Towner Tree-ring dates from archaeological wood and charcoal samples provide the highest quality dates available to archaeologists short of actual written records. Tree-ring dates are accurate to the calendar year, have no associated statistical uncertainty (±), and, under favorable circumstances, record the exact years in which trees were felled. These dates are applied to a wide range of past human activities including tree cutting, the construction, repair, and abandonment of individual structures, the establishment and history of communities, and interaction among the inhabitants of such communities. As an example, more than 60,000 dates from more than 6,000 sites underlie the archaeological chronology of the southwestern United States. The Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research (LTRR) at the University of Arizona is the sole source of archaeological tree-ring dates in western North America. With continuing National Science Foundation support, LTRR operates a dating program for tree-ring samples collected from Alaska to Peru and from the Pacific Ocean to the Mississippi River. NSF support allows the program to keep pace with the growing demand for archaeological tree-ring dates, information, and assistance and to maintain high production levels and short turnaround times. On average, the program produces more than 1,000 tree-ring dates from 4,000+ archaeological tree-ring samples submitted annually. These data are integrated into relevant archaeological contexts to construct refined cultural sequences and examine important issues of past human behavior that cannot be addressed without accurate, high resolution temporal control. Among these topics are absolute site and regional chronologies, social organization, intergroup interaction, and cultural adaptation to physical and social environments. In addition, the program vigorously pursues the expansion of archaeological tree-ring dating into new areas. NSF Grant BCS 1112563, "Dendroarchaeology in Western North America," supported one technician to analyze archaeological tree-ring samples as part of LTRR’s archaeological dating program. This technical support provides the dating program with the stability necessary to maintain rapid turnaround in sample analysis and to afford archaeologists timely access to the service. During the three years of support under this grant, the program as a whole derived 1,539 dates from the analysis of 4,728 samples representing 138 archaeological sites. Within the framework of these outcomes, notable achievements include (1) continued expansion of archaeological tree-ring dating into areas lacking such capability including the Great Plains, Great Basin, Sonoran Desert, and northern Mexico; (2) the dating of fuelwood reserves in order to assess the potential effects of the human use of dead wood on the archaeological chronology of west-central Colorado; (3) the use of the resultant ring chronologies to facilitate absolute dating of Ute-affiliated archaeological sites in the area; (4) the dating and analysis of historic period sites in New Mexico, which illuminates colonial and Dust Bowl period Spanish and Anglo population dynamics; (5) the construction of digital databases that scientific access to the tens of thousands of archaeological tree-ring dates from the Southwest. The NSF sponsored technician contributes directly to the broader impacts of the LTRR dating program. The program’s findings are integrated into undergraduate and graduate classes in anthropology, geosciences, and other programs at the University of Arizona and other academic institutions. In addition, the project interacts with K-12 programs, provides instruction for visiting scholars from around the world, and facilitates field training for governmental, Native American, and private archaeologists and resource managers. The LTRR tree-ring sample collection and data archives are unparalleled, easily accessed resources for archaeological research. Increased understanding of long-term human adaptation to cultural and environmental variability and enhanced knowledge of environmental processes help develop and implement environmental and social policy. Project personnel have contributed directly to formulating policy for managing cultural and natural resources by federal, local, and tribal land management agencies

Agency
National Science Foundation (NSF)
Institute
Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
Application #
1112563
Program Officer
John E. Yellen
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
2011-09-01
Budget End
2014-08-31
Support Year
Fiscal Year
2011
Total Cost
$239,598
Indirect Cost
Name
University of Arizona
Department
Type
DUNS #
City
Tucson
State
AZ
Country
United States
Zip Code
85721