Please activate JavaScript!
Please install Adobe Flash Player, click here for download

uni'wissen 02-2015_ENG

the remains of the Late Stone Age stilt houses on Lake Constance or the approximately 15,000-year-old pine trees from the Late Glacial Period discovered by construction workers several years ago in the middle of Zurich, Switzerland. In these cases the wood was protected from decomposition. Several-thousand-year-old well shafts and the wooden foundations of long-since collapsed buildings preserved underground thus often yield important findings for Tegel. Other valuable sources of climactic data include tree trunks from gravel pits that were able to survive for centuries or even millennia in river sediments. The Craftsmanship of Farmers The work of dendrochronologists is not only of interest for climate researchers. “We are at the interface between the social and natural sciences,” says Tegel. Complex woodworking and mortising techniques on the Leipzig well shaft from 5000 before Christ reveal, for example, that the first farmers were much better craftsmen than their tools made of stone and bone might suggest. The precise dating of construction measures down to the year enables researchers to draw conclusions on settlement dynamics in particular areas and times. Historians are also interested in the question of how climactic conditions influ- enced waves of migration. At the time of the Migration Period of the fourth century AD in Europe, for instance, the climate was especially cold and dry. However, Tegel warns against equating temporal coincidence with causality and seeing climate as “the sole determining factor for human behavior and social development processes.” Dr. Willy Tegel studied prehistoric archaeo- logy at the French École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris and Toulouse. He then worked as a research as- sistant at the Stilt House Conservation Site in Hemmenhofen on Lake Constance and in Bern, Switzerland, and took several research trips to France. In 2008, Tegel accepted a position at the former Institute of Forest Growth of the University of Freiburg, where he completed his PhD with a dissertation on growth rings, climate, and society in 2013. Tegel has focused since early in his academic career on dendrochrono- logy, a dating method based on the analysis of the growth rings of trees that has applications in climate research, social sciences, art history, and historic preservation. Photo: Thomas Kunz Oak wood from the Late Stone Age: A Freiburg research team used dendrochronology to determine the age of four wells near Leipzig – they are regarded as the world’s oldest known wooden structures. Photo: Sächsisches Landesamt für Archäologie, Dresden Further Reading Hellmann, L. / Tegel, W. / Eggertsson, O. /  Schweingruber, F. H. / Blanchette, R. / Gärtner, H. /  Kirdyanov, A. / Büntgen, U. (2013): Tracing the origin of arctic driftwood. In: Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences 118/1, pp. 68–76. Tegel, W. / Elburg, R. / Hakelberg, D. / Stäuble, H. /  Büntgen, U. (2012): Early neolithic water wells reveal the world's oldest wood architecture. In: PLoS ONE 7/12, e51374. Büntgen, U. / Tegel, W. / Nicolussi, K. /  McCormick, M. / Frank, D. / Trouet, V. /Kaplan, J. /  Herzig, F. / Heussner, U. / Wanner, H. / Luterbacher, J. /  Esper, J. (2011): 2500 years of European climate variability and human susceptibility. In: Science 331/6017, pp. 578–582. 19