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In Europe, a lot of the material we use in this stage of the chronology comes from beams and planks in historic buildings, and that takes us back through the Middle Ages.'' You just keep looking for overlapping ring patterns in wood farther and farther back, but once you get to the time of Christ, you begin to run out of man-made wooden objects.
So you look for dead trees naturally preserved in bogs.
The task of assembling chronologies and then of matching them against samples of unknown age is staggering.
By measuring this loss, a scientist can estimate the age of a bone, a piece of wood or any other carbon-based remnant. Stuiver discovered that when the true ages of wooden objects, as calculated from tree rings, are plotted on a graph against the objects' apparent ages, as determined by carbon dating, a wiggly rather than a straight line results.
However, inaccuracies are caused by the fact that the ratio of radioactive carbon to ordinary carbon in the environment varies over the years. The wiggles represent historic fluctuations in the environment that have continuously altered the ratios of carbon 14 to ordinary carbon. Hughes, these wiggles follow the same pattern in both Europe and America, and therefore provide a universal correction scale for carbon dating, at least in the temperate zone of the Northern Hemisphere.
Scientists must use computers both in measuring individual tree rings and in finding patterns that match.'' Basically,'' Dr.
Baillie said, ''when you're building a chronology, you start out by measuring the widths and distribution of rings in living trees.
From the tree-ring evidence, scientists have concluded that the Santorini eruption sharply lowered global temperatures for several years a development that may have affected civilization in many ways.