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Time travel’s not an option for communities trying to pinpoint the birthdates of their historical buildings, but trees apparently have the ability to see into the distant past. The technique’s called “Dendrochronology” or tree-ring dating, but it’s seldom used in the Southeast because of the climate. But now, University of Florida and University of Tennessee researchers have used it to uncover the original age of an historic home and tourist attraction in already historic St. Augustine, Florida. The timing coincides with a renovation of the Ximenez-Fatio House Museum.
Leda Kobziar/UF Fire Science and Forest Conservation: “We were able to increase the accuracy of the restoration efforts by conclusively dating when the first and second story addition of the house occurred and the original estimate was about ten to twelve years earlier than what we concluded.”
With the use of a modified drill bit, researchers were able to extract wood samples from the house and compare them with similar regional trees. By comparing the relationship between tree rings, researchers were able to uncover the home’s proper timeline. Researchers say this is only the beginning in the use of tree-ring dating technology.
Kobziar/UF Fire Science and Forest Conservation: “Submerged logs, or submerged wood, previously submerged canoes, those can be extracted from underwater and Dendrochronology can be used to assess when those timbers were cut to makes those ships and structures. So, there’s some really neat applications in that sense to sort of fill in some of the holes of history.”
Researchers predict that use of tree-ring dating will continue to rise as a tool to unravel other historical mysteries.