Saturday, February 28, 2015

German Archaeological Institute

The German Archaeological Institute was established in Berlin in AD 1832 and is directed by the Foreign Office of Germany with offices around the world in Athens, Baghdad, Cairo, Damascus, Istanbul, Madrid, Rome, Tehran, and Sana'a.

Dr. Uwe Heußner is the principle dendrochronologist at the Institute and Alex Müller is his technician.They travel to active excavations to collect wood samples and besides their travel, they spend all of this time dating samples to be included in archaeological reports.  I had the opportunity to visit the Institute in April and they had already dated more than 2,000 individual samples.

This is Uwe's office with some of his classic samples that he has collected through the year. Much of Uwe's work over the years has been incorporated into long-term reconstructions across Europe (Büntgen et al. 2011a, Büntgen et al. 2011b, Büntgen et al. 2012)

They also have a paleoethnobotanist, Dr. Reinder Neef, on staff who has an extensive seed collection of both green and carbonized seeds that he can use to identify plant materials from Archaeological sites. Then he can use that information to identify what they were eating and also study trade between different production areas. My wife, Karla, is a paleoethnobotanist so I was quite interested in these collections and their work.,

As with most dendrochronology laboratories, they have wood piled up in all corners of their facility. Although, the wood moves through this lab very quickly as new samples come in, are analyzed, and then shipped back to the archaeologists for archiving.

They have the mandatory large mouth band saw that enables them to cut down samples and put a relatively flat surface on the more intact wood.

They have an archive where they store some wood samples.

This is Alex Müller in his clean work space (rather than the wood shop or the measuring stage where he spends much of his time).

Many of the samples that they work with are old oak samples from historical structures. You can see the white streaks on the surfaces of these dark colored oaks. Uwe and Alex will often surface a transect on the oak with a razor blade and then rub chalk into the pores which makes the rings more obvious in ring porous woods.

They use a series of archaeological drill bits such as this chisel bit to cut samples out of larger beams or standing structures.

Uwe showed us his collection of bits in a nice leather sheath that he brings into the field.

They use a series of bit diameters depending upon the needs of the particular project.

They use the LinTab measuring system which is the European standard.

Büntgen, U., Tegel, W., Nicolussi, K., McCormick, M., Frank, Trouet, V., Kaplan, J.O., Herzig, F., Heussner, K.U., & Esper, J. (2011a). 2500 years of European climate variability and human susceptibility. Science, 331(6017), 578-582.
Büntgen, U., Brázdil, R., Heussner, K.U., Hofmann, J., Kontic, R., Kyncl, T., ... & Tegel, W. (2011b). Combined dendro-documentary evidence of Central European hydroclimatic springtime extremes over the last millennium. Quaternary Science Reviews, 30(27), 3947-3959.
Büntgen, U., Tegel, W., Heussner, K.U., Hofmann, J., Kontic, R., Kyncl, T., & Cook, E. R. (2012). Effects of sample size in dendroclimatology. Clim Res, 53, 263-269.