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Tree rings hint at environmental triggers for settlement change

Tree rings hint at environmental triggers for settlement change

Lecture by Mike Baillie (Professor Emeritus, Queen’s University, Belfast)

Given at Study of Irish Historic Settlement, Climate, Environment, Settlement and Society: changing historic patterns in Ireland conference, held at All Hallows College, Dublin on February 25, 2012

Abstract: Tree ring dates for buildings and archaeological structures have been accumulating for several decades. It is possible to interrogate not just the master oak chronologies but the start and end dates of populations of timbers to provide pictures of human activity across Ireland. In turn, changing distributions of activity through time can be compared with traumatic events deduced from the tree ring patterns themselves.

This paper will review a series of events and gaps in the tree ring record as well as clear episodes of tree regeneration in order to make some suggestions of what may have been happening in the sixth, seventh, tenth and fourteenth centuries. The paper will not provide answers but will provide a chronological framework for other environmental, archaeological and historical records to be interrogated.

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