Researchers at Oxford University say that the trees that grew during intense bursts of radiation in the past have ‘time markers’ in their rings and could help archaeologists to dating events from thousands of years ago.
The authors explain how data collection could revolutionize the study of ancient civilizations like the Egyptians and Mayans. In his view, the unusually high levels of radioactive isotope carbon-14 found in tree rings, set during bursts of radiation, they could help identify reliably dates.
“The various peaks act as time markers as secret watches contained in the wood, papyrus, baskets made of live plants and other organic materials,” the authors note in the text, which has been published in the ‘Proceedings of the Royal Society A ‘.
Scholars believe that intense solar storms caused huge explosions of radiation hitting the Earth between 775 and 994 ad C, which resulted in distinct peaks in the concentration of radiocarbon in the trees growing at the time.
The events are precisely datable because tree rings belong to the files that accurately known growth year each. In the new research, the authors describe how they could detect similar peaks elsewhere in the thousands of years of tree-ring material worldwide available.
They say even a handful of these time markers could allow them to reconstruct a reliable framework of important dates for different civilizations. They note that the crucial point is that the time markers will also be present in every living plant or tree growing at the time of increased radiation, even in the wood used in old buildings or other artifacts formed from plants.