By Tim Radford
Archaeologists believe they have identified a new way of putting accurate dates to great events of prehistory. Rare and spectacular storms on the sun appear to have left their mark in forests and fields around the planet over the past 5,000 years.
Michael Dee, of Oxford University’s research laboratory for archaeology and the history of art, thinks evidence of such solar storms could help put precise years to some of the great uncertainties of history: the construction of Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza, the collapse of the ancient Mayan civilisation in Central America, and perhaps even the arrival of the Vikings in the Americas.
Every tree maintains its own almanac in the form of annual growth rings. For decades dendrochronologists have been using tree-ring evidence and radiocarbon dating to build a timetable of events that confirm historical accounts, even those predating the first written chronicles.
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