Saturday, April 29, 2006

Rewriting eastern Mediterranean chronology? (UPDATED)

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"A burnt olive tree has helped to resolve a controversy over dating key events in the Mediterranean that took place more than three millennia ago. The new dates would change the chronology of the Minoans, Greeks, Cypriots and others by a century, realign history and raise questions about the Egyptian chronology and the genesis of Classical civilisation. The rewriting of the history of the Aegean has come in part from an elaborate study of charcoal and seed samples from a number of sites dated to between 1700BC and 1400BC, and partly from a single olive tree. The gnarled stump was found in a volcanic rock layer on the Greek island of Santorini (Thera)." The article goes on to discuss the dating of the massive eruption that destroyed much of Bronze Age civilization in the Aegean, explains how Bayesian statistical methods have been applied to the carbon dating of the above-mentioned olive tree and briefly looks at some of the implications of the new chronology, which, if accepted, shifts the chronology to 100 years earlier than previously believed. Not all scholars are in agreement.
See the above article for the full story.

The story is also discussed on The Independent website:

UPDATED: And now also on: (

For more about the uses of Bayesian approaches in archaeology, see the University of Sheffield website:

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