Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 3

178

Acta Archaeologica

VI. CROSSDATING
The crossmatched curves were subsequently amalgamated to produce a master curve for all the dated
oak coffins (WMKIST21) comprising 419 years, reproduced here as Table 9. With respect to absolute dating, this curve was compared with a German reference
chronology covering the period from 6069 BC to 928
AD (Gttingen M0000001, NNU DMML0020; Leuschner et al. 1987; Leuschner & Delorme 1988), kindly
made available by H. H. Leuschner, Gttingen. Comparison produced values of t = 6.95 and W= 61,83 (for
an explanation of W-values see legend for Table 6) in
the position where the master curve for the oak cof-

fins covers the period from 1712 BC to 1294 BC. Here,


both the t and the W values are the greatest of any that
appear in any comparison over the almost 7000-year
long period; the values are so high that crossdating of
the master curve can be considered to be secure. Accordingly, the dating of the curves for the individual
oak coffins incorporated into the master curve can also
be considered as secure.
The absolute date for each of the individual oak
coffins is given in the catalogue. Furthermore, the
year corresponding to the last tree ring measured on
the coffins is shown in Table 1.

VII. THE TREES LAST GROWTH YEAR


Theoretical considerations

Through this process of crossmatching and crossdating, i.e. relative and absolute dating, the period covered by the preserved tree rings in the 28 dated coffins
was established. It is, however, crucial for the archaeological interpretation of the results to know when the
trees from which the coffins were made were felled.
In the following, an attempt will be made to establish,
as precisely as possible, the trees last growth year.
The results of this are given in Table 1 and illustrated
in Fig. 3. For more detailed information reference is
made to the catalogue.
If the bark ring, i.e. the tree ring just below the
bark, is preserved, the trees last growth year can be
established precisely as this represents the last ring to
be formed during the trees lifetime. If the bark ring
comprises only earlywood, formed in May and June,
the tree must have been felled in one of these months.
If latewood, formed in July and August, is also present,
felling must either have taken place in the summer or
in the time between cessation of growth in August
and the start of the new growth season in May the
subsequent year. In this latter case, the dendrochronologically determined felling year can therefore extend
over two calendar years. In order to avoid this uncertainty the term last growth year rather than felling
year is normally used.

It is only possible to be completely certain that


the bark ring is preserved when the bark is also still
intact on the sample. In a number of cases, however,
it is possible to establish that the bark ring is probably
present even though the bark is missing. This applies,
for example, if the same sapwood ring makes up the
edge of the sample over a longer distance. If the sample edge was the result of artificial shaping (cutting or
carving), erosion or decay it would be expected that
the last tree ring would vary from place to place over
the sample. Similarly, if a series of samples, taken at
various points on the coffin, end with the same sapwood ring it is also likely that this ring represents the
bark ring.
If the bark ring is missing, or cannot be demonstrated to be present, but part of the sapwood is preserved, the trees last growth year can be identified
approximately as the number of tree rings in the sapwood of oak trees varies within rather narrow limits.
In establishing the last growth year, use is made of
so-called sapwood estimates calculated for European
oak trees on the basis of a very large dataset (Hollstein 1965, later extended by Hollstein 1980). These
estimates are those normally used at the WM Dendrochronological Laboratory, as they appear to fit well with
Danish conditions. The limits that the estimates give
for the number of sapwood rings should not be seen as

Dendrochronological Dating of Bronze Age Oak Coffins


absolute; they are only general guidelines applicable
to the majority of trees. The factors, over and above
the age of the tree, which determine the number of
sapwood rings in oak trees have not been definitely
resolved, but it seems proven that climate has a great
influence (Hillam et al. 1987; Wany 1990). Accordingly, it is not certain that the sapwood estimates used
give a completely correct expression of the situation
when they are (as here) used on oak trees that have
grown in different areas and in different periods to
those which were used to calculate them (cf. below).

179

The majority of the oak coffins examined were


excavated many years ago and have often stood unprotected and in very exposed circumstances since
excavation. There are therefore numerous examples of coffins, which are said, in earlier reports, to
have well-preserved sapwood, but which today only
comprise heartwood; the brittle sapwood has simply
crumbled away in the years following excavation.
The information given by early reports on possibly
preserved sapwood has therefore been carefully recorded as it supports the probability that the latest

Fig. 3. Dating diagram for the 28 dated oak coffins. Each bar represents one coffin. The sapwood is marked with black. If the last measured
tree ring lies close to the sapwood boundary this is denoted by a small black square. The line to the left of the bar shows the distance from
the last measured tree ring to the pith. The line to the right of the bar shows the distance from the last measured tree ring to the trees last
growth year. If it has been possible to calculate the last growth year more precisely by comparison with other coffins the line is shown broken.
The longest transverse line gives the most probable last growth year for the tree, calculated on the basis of the sapwood estimates. The short
transverse lines show the uncertainty in the calculation. If only heartwood is preserved the transverse lines show the most probable last growth
year in so far as only the sapwood is missing; the last transverse line is here replaced with an arrow to indicate that the last growth year could
be later than shown. If the bark ring is preserved this is denoted by BR, although if there is some or considerable doubt concerning whether
it is preserved (BR) is used. The numbers refer to section A of the catalogue.

180

Acta Archaeologica

preserved heartwood ring lies close to the sapwood


boundary.
If all the sapwood and perhaps also an unknown
number of heartwood rings is missing from the coffin, the earliest possible last growth year for the tree
can be calculated by adding the number of sapwood
rings which are clearly missing to the date for the samples latest preserved heartwood ring. In some cases,
where the surface of the coffin is evenly rounded and
the last preserved tree ring is (roughly) the same over
a relatively large part of the edge circumference it is
likely that the latest preserved tree ring is at or close
to the transition between the heartwood and sapwood,
but it is impossible to be certain of this.

The actual coffins

Of the 28 dated coffins, ten (3. Lille Dragshj, 5.


Guldhj A inner coffin, Guldhj B, Guldhj C, 7. Jels,
10. Muldhj inner coffin, 17. Storehj at Barde, 18.
Storhj at Egtved, 21. Trindhj C, 22. Ungstrup) have,
either with certainty or great probability, the bark ring
preserved. The last growth year for the trees from
which these coffins were made lies within a period
extending from 1389 BC (5. Guldhj A inner coffin) to
c. 1347 BC (21. Trindhj C).
A further three dated coffins (2. Borum Eshj A,
5. Guldhj A outer coffin, 21. Trindhj B) have part
of the sapwood preserved. The calculated last growth
year for these trees lies in the period from c. 1377
BC (5. Guldhj A outer coffin) until c. 1328 BC (21.
Trindhj B). Taking account of the archaeological
circumstances (cf. accounts of the coffins in the catalogue) this period can be narrowed down to between
1389 BC (5. Guldhj A outer coffin) and c. 1347 BC
(21. Trindhj B), i.e. the same period as for the coffins
with the bark ring preserved.
For eight of the dated coffins (2. Borum Eshj B,
4. Fladshj, 10. Muldhj outer coffin, 11. Mllehj,
12. Nybl, 14. Rnhj, 16. Store Kongehj, 20. Terkelsbl), on which only the heartwood is preserved,
the last preserved tree ring lies, with great probability, very close to the sapwood boundary such that,
here too, it is possible to establish approximately the
trees last growth year, although with greater uncertainty than if part of the sapwood had been preserved.
The calculated last growth year (the most likely felling

date for the trees used to make the individual coffins)


lies in the period between c. 1391 BC (11. Mllehj)
and c. 1266 BC (12. Nybl).
For the remaining seven dated coffins (1. Kong Arrildshj, 6. Hsby, 8. Maasbll, 9. Margarethenberg, 13.
Nragerhj, 19. Snder nlev sb. 20 grave 8, 21. Trindhj A), which also only have the heartwood preserved, it
is not possible to determine how far the latest preserved
tree ring lies from the sapwood boundary. It is therefore
only possible to give a terminus post quem for the trees
last growth year. The earliest last growth ring calculated
in this way (the earliest most likely felling date for the
trees used to make the individual coffins) lies in the period between c. 1468 BC (19. Snder nlev sb. 20 grave
8) and c. 1290 BC (13. Nragerhj). The coffins in this
group do, however, differ with regard to the number of
tree rings that probably are missing up to the transition
between heartwood and sapwood. On six of the coffins
(1. Kong Arrildshj, 6. Hsby, 8. Maasbll, 9. Margarethenberg, 13. Nragerhj, 21. Trindhj A), the natural
rounded form of the tree trunk is wholly or partially preserved and it is therefore probable that only a limited
number of heartwood rings is missing (of the order of
5-25 rings). The same applies to the undated coffin from
19. Snder nlev sb. 20 grave 9 (cf. directly below). For
the last coffin without sapwood (19. Snder nlev sb.
20 grave 8), the wood remains are so fragmentary and
degraded that it is, for example, not known from which
parts of the coffin the investigated samples originate.
Here it is possible that many more tree rings are lacking
up to the transition between heartwood and sapwood.
With regard to the two oak coffins which could not
be dated, the example from 19. Snder nlev sb. 20
grave 9 contains very few tree rings (85), and the treering curve is strongly periodic due to defoliation of the
trees by cockchafers both presumably reasons for it
not being possible to date this coffin. The coffin from
15. Sortehj contains 197 tree rings and the number of
preserved tree rings is, therefore, not the reason for the
lack of a date. An archaeological evaluation of the artefacts found in the coffin (Thrane 1962), suggests that
burial could have taken place later than was the case
with the majority of the other oak coffins. If, as a consequence of this, the tree-ring curve from the 15. Sortehj
coffin only overlaps with the curves for the other oak
coffins over a short period this could, perhaps, be the
reason it could not be dated.

Похожие интересы