Deranged Dating: The Roman Problem

One of the quaint aspects of academia is it’s claim that Dendrochronology is “scientific”.

Dendrochronology (or tree-ring dating) is the scientific method of dating tree rings (also called growth rings) to the exact year they were formed in order to analyze atmospheric conditions during different periods in history.

The peculiarities of the “scientific method” deployed by Dendrochronology is perhaps best understood by examining how this academic discipline handles Roman Times.

Early in the 1980s Dendrochronology adopted German chronologies for Roman Times.

This transformed Romano-British floating chronologies into concrete chronologies.

The dates of this curve remained unfixed until in 1980-81 the German chronologies compiled by Hollstein and Becker for Roman Times became available and it could then be dated to BC 73 to AD 209.

The Waterfront of Londinium – J Fletcher
London and Middlesex Archaeological Society – 33 – 1982

The new concrete chronologies conveniently conformed to British History.

Roman Britain was the area of the island of Great Britain that was governed by the Roman Empire, from 43 to 410 AD.

Londinium was a settlement established on the current site of the City of London around AD 43

Enthusiasm for the freshly minted concrete chronologies encouraged Dendrochronology to extend their Romano-British chronologies forwards in time.

And backwards in time even though the techniques employed were “difficult and controversial”.

The crossmatching of short oak tree-ring sequences and their absolute dating is a difficult and controversial process.

The number of rings found to be acceptable varies according to laboratory, but it is not usually less that 50.

Below this, the uniqueness of the ring pattern may be questionable.

However, a high proportion of archaeological wood samples submitted for analysis have fewer that 50 rings for example 61% of the the oak timbers from the Iron Age causeway at Fiskerton, Lincolnshire were short sequences.

If we were to ignore these samples, we would be losing a great deal of information and dating potential.

Experience has shown that the actual number of rings is less crucial to successful dating than the number of related samples.

For example, one sample with 30 rings is probably undatable, whereas several samples, all from the same context, might be datable.

The single 30-year pattern might not be unique, but several ring patterns can be crossmatched with each other, and with a reference or master chronology.

Dendrochronology and Roman London – J Hillam, R Morgan and I Tyers
London and Middlesex Archaeological Society – 35 – 1984

After 20 years of enthusiastic expansion these concrete chronologies had more than a few problems because the enthusiastic expansion failed to span the [deemed] 4th century AD.

This meant their concrete chronologies had the decidedly unscientific privilege of being disconnected floating chronologies with fixed dates “covering 434 BC – AD 315”.

For the historic period there is now a continuous sequence that runs from the present back to AD 404, and another from Roman contexts covering 434 BC – AD 315.

The latter is still reliant on cross-links with Ireland and Germany for its dating since no English tree-ring sequence has been found that spans the fourth century AD.

Both the ‘Roman’ chronology and the AD 404 to present-day sequence are represented by master sequences from many sites.

Guidelines on Producing and Interpreting Dendrochronological Dates
English Heritage – 2004


Dendrochronology still favours these oxymoronic floating yet fixed Romano-British concrete chronologies and it’s been decreed that “time will not be wasted” comparing Roman Times with medieval chronologies.

Knowledge of the approximate date is used, not as prior evidence, but to save time during the crossmatching process.

All the Roman timbers, for example, can be grouped together, and time will not be wasted in comparing Roman sequences against medieval chronologies.

Of course, if no date can be found in the Roman period, then the search will be extended to chronologies from other periods.

Guidelines on Producing and Interpreting Dendrochronological Dates
English Heritage – 2004

This is unfortunate because if their time wasn’t so precious [or their mindset was vaguely scientific] then they would discover their concrete chronologies for Roman Britain mirror their medieval chronologies.

From the perspective of the measurement year [labelled “14C Age CE”] there are two worrisome data gaps in the 1st millennium CE.

The smaller data gap beginning in 912 suggests the raw measurement year is precisely accurate at this point in the calibration curve because it aligns [to the year] with the Heinsohn Horizon as determined by the perihelion of Comet Halley.

The larger data gap where the calibration curve restarts in 743 is very suggestive of the first felling of mature oak trees after the Arabian Horizon in 637.

This interpretation of events is further reinforced by the observation that the pattern traced by the calibration curve during the first 712 years of the 1st millennium replicates the calibration curve pattern that ends around 1350.


Furthermore, if their time wasn’t quite so precious they would also discover that by using “difficult and controversial” techniques to enthusiastically extend their Romano-British concrete chronologies from 434 BC to 315 AD they have created [over] 1,200 phantom years.

Moving back in time it becomes apparent that the slanted science of the radiocarbon calibration process begins to push back in the 1st millennium BC and rapidly accelerates to breath-taking levels that exceed minus 250 years.

The combination of the pushed forward data during the 1st millennium AD and the data push back in the 1st millennium BC creates a conspicuous Pivot Point in the Irish Oaks Chronology at 470 BC.

In many ways this 470 BC Pivot Point is the defining feature of the Irish Oaks Chronology and the consensus calibration curve that controls the radiocarbon calibration process.

Unsurprisingly, the IntCal13 Northern Hemisphere Atmospheric Radiocarbon Calibration Curve published in 2013 contains a remarkably similar Pivot Point at about 465 BC.


However, the concrete chronologies look like they’re just the tip of the iceberg

The gap in the Hohenheim river oak chronology during the later part of the Hallstatt period exists even after 20 years of intensive field sampling, and is still unexplained.

On the one hand, continuous overlapping older oak sequences (and in the oldest part, pines) show a unique continuity of flooding events over the entire Holocene.

The exception to this is the lack of evidence for tree accumulation in river gravels in south-central Europe between 540 BC (the latest accumulation date from the Lahn River) and 382 BC (the earliest accumulation date of a series of subfossil trees at the Danube).

Because of this lack of evidence, a 10-yr gap in the subfossil river oak series occurs from 540 to 530 BC (see Fig 2).

An 11,000-Year German Oak And Pine Dendrochronology For Radiocarbon Calibration – Bernd Becker – Radiocarbon, Vol. 35, No.1, 1993, P.201-213


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6 Responses to Deranged Dating: The Roman Problem

  1. cadxx says:

    Thank you for this MalagaBay, I’ve never looked closely at dendrochronology.
    In my own humble opinion all scientific dating is suspect. My attention was first drawn to the subject when it was found that the soil on the Moon was a couple of billion years older than the rocks. At around the same time I found a letter on Talk Origins by a scientist who claimed that artefacts in coal cannot be dated because coal absorbs radioactivity from the environment. (This was quickly removed although I may have a copy somewhere???)

    I have several referenced articles on my website that show that radioactivity varies according to the time of year. Among them is a reference to variation in radioactivity due to heat, that has been known about for many decades…there is no absolute time-scale and atomic theory is wrong and by default atomic dating is wrong. There is no possible means to change physics and so dendrochronology has to be made to fit with all the other wrong answers.

    Why do they do it?: Well, apart from the need to show that science knows everything, there is the need for linearity. Everyone in science has a need to think in terms of straight lines. (See Einstein for an example.) We are supposed to originate from primordial soup to cell to creature to primitive humanoid to the pinnacle of scientific man – the ultimate (accidental) creation of a random nature, the aspirational scientist. Our history therefore has to be revised to accommodate the science BS. There is no need for it to be true as long as it’s the same in all the textbooks.

    I have no doubt that I will be called a creationist for this as science is also based upon binaries like science or religion.

  2. Carsten says:

    Dendrochronology is something know to every man, woman and child in Denmark used to date our past. Its taught in school and loads of info can be found on the internet.
    Of primary interest is that some indicators have been identified that may explain certain anomalies in the growth pattern of Oak trees. The life cycle of the Cockchafer/May bug. Its a four year cycle during which every four years is a hatching year where the bugs will eat of the oak trees leaving extraordinarily thing rings.
    Only when these instances can be checked against written documentation is it being explained as bug’s attacks.. as such a succession of years during the 1700’s and 1800’s have been identified and found proof as to validate inexplainable variations in the year rings.
    There may be other years where this pertains to but as long as it can’t be documented.. which may be very well from a scientific point of view as not all variations be attributable to bugs but it also makes for scientists to not occupy themselves with such problems.
    Another point is that until around 2010 there were two institutions in Denmark working often in unison on dendrochronology; this to several scientists was seen as a guarantee of scientific discussions being part of the work and complained about when the two institutions were unified in order to save funds..!
    Among the issues raised were the validity of using c14 dating as a means to close gaps where no treerings are available as differences have been noted and history adjusted accordingly ending up with older dates becoming older and younger dated becoming younger than determined by c14 tests. At least dendrochronology have been able to take precedence.
    One very interesting fact gleaned by dendrochronology is that fashion changed fast even in prehistory; the period of burying peoples during the Bronze Age in oak caskets in hill burials was predominantly within a 50-year period!
    Not all scientists agree to established dates but as in other places most seems to adhere to the mainstream.

  3. oldbrew says:

    ‘Radiocarbon dating (also referred to as carbon dating or carbon-14 dating) ‘

    Thunderstorms create radioactivity, scientists discover
    They say ‘these results are important as they demonstrate a previously unknown source of isotopes in the Earth’s atmosphere. These include carbon-13, carbon-14 and nitrogen-15…The findings also have implications for astronomers and planetary scientists.’

  4. Carsten says:

    i found this .pdf looking for Danish dendrochronologic curve – somebody claims the Roman oak have been dated at least 200 years too old hope the link works.
    Seems the German oak chronology is faulty; the Danish one is partly based on this to link up floating blocks.
    One interesting find is that Roman Oak when compared to a supra-long Scandinavian Pine curve the Roman Oak curve ended at 533 CE! A difference of 218 years. Making the founding of Rome happening not by 510BCE but 292BCE.
    Two significant events is mentioned one by 330BCE and the other the period of 536-42.

    • Carsten says:

      Founding of Rome of course not 292 but 535BCE.

      • Carsten says:

        Now I have to read up on dating the Franks monastrie’s annals; if they did follow Roman dating then we have the Viking age opening around 516CE with a raid on the Frisian coast which would than have taken place by 734CE and coincide with the new scientific argument that the Viking age didn’t start 793CE with the attack upon Holy Island nor 787CE with the attack at Weymouth Bay but at during the early 8th century! It would be real Vikings and not just dudes in a row-boat as the sail isn’t regarded as having entered use in Scandinavia till the 7th century.

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