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Oak is the species of prime interest and it is possible to date wood back to over 7,000 years with a precision, in appropriate circumstances, of a single year.This is most impressive and makes dendrochronology the main dating method for structures containing oak timber.Upon encountering a new site, the archaeologist immediately requires information about its age in order to set it in context with other sites.In research into our heritage the conservationist or architect may be able to date the general period of a building he is working with from either the situation, materials of construction, type of timber joints or other stylistic features.If research into other sources of information also fails to throw light on the building's history, resort may be made to the various scientific methods of dating.

It was not until 1939 that the science was taken seriously in Europe, mainly through the efforts of Professor Huber in Germany, and not until after World War II that such studies became established in the UK.These are: dendrochronology (or 'tree-ring' dating), radiocarbon dating and thermoluminescence dating.Each method has a distinct role in the investigation of historic buildings.The SUERC Radiocarbon Laboratory is involved in archaeological, forensic and environmental research, additionally using stable isotopes (13C and 15N) for dietary reconstruction.As well as undertaking its own in-house and collaborative research, the SUERC Radiocarbon Laboratory also provides a radiocarbon dating service to national and international museums, universities and archaeology units.

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