There a very controversial study conducted by Petra Ossowski Larsson and Lars-Ake Larsson called "Dendrochronological Dating of Roman Time".

If I understood correctly, it states that there is a weak link in several dendrochronological scales at once.

In a self-published manuscript from 2015 Ossowski Larsson and Larsson pointed out that their overall conclusion concerning Hollstein's West German oak chronology is that it fails to bridge the gap in the fourth century CE and, consequently, that its Roman block is floating:

The only so far available German detail-data (not the raw data though) is published as "Jahrringtafeln" by Ernst Hollstein (Hollstein 1980). We retrieved 174 single-site mean value curves from the hand drawn tables. These mean value curves form a 2698 years long chronology (724 BC to AD 1974) which matches the Becker chronology with cor. 0.62, 37.8 at 2317 years overlap (Hollstein normalization used if not otherwise specified).

We then analyzed the internal consistency of the Hollstein chronology with CDendro, using the Hollstein normalization a the following criteria: we excluded all sequences shorter than 100 years, and required a correlation coefficient of at least 0.40, a t-value of at least 6.0 and a minimum overlap of 70 years. This resulted in an absolute, continuous chronology (Hollstein Recent, AD 383 to1974) and a floating continuous chronology containing a lot of archaeologically Roman sequences (Hollstein Roman, 546 BC to AD 315).

On their website cdendro.se they write the following:

Our 232-hypothesis implies that the historical time line of Roman and Greek antiquity is not correctly synchronized with the astronomical or dendrochronological projections of the real time line. Therefore we would expect to find some irregularities in the written history of that time.

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As a conclusion, we can say that the authors of this study, having analyzed several dendrochronological scales (Ernst Hollstein chronology, The Belfast oak chronology, The English oak chronologies, The French oak chronology, The Scandinavian pine chronology) conclude that there is a weak link between the Roman time and recent chronology. They call for scientific discussion to try to solve this problem. Finally, an error of the size mentioned would have consequences for our calendar as it seems to indicate the existence of invented years in the Christian era.

I know ResearchGate is not very reliable, but I would like to know: what are the arguments that support or refute this theory?

  • 2
    What are you trying to ask? This seems very confusing
    – Joe W
    Jan 7 at 14:02
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    The question doesn't seem to mention that there are several sets of data being compared, the Irish against the English/German/French and that there's a discrepancy. The question would need to be clarified in it's contents and in the claim that's being challenged - i.e. is it the data that's being challenged or the claim that there's a discrepancy when interpreted the way the study suggests, or the conclusion that recorded history is out of sync with the evidence. Please edit to make it clear. Jan 7 at 14:52
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    I suspect the author is trying to promote the theory that our entire dating of 1-5th century is wrong, and that several hundred years of them never actually happened. Jan 7 at 15:57
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    There is an idea worth questioning here. But the idea seems suspect because of the lack of reference to any dating source other than tree rings. How does it compare to carbon-dating or other tools used by archaeologists?
    – matt_black
    Jan 7 at 17:26
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    I suppose the OP intended 'cdendro.se' to link to Scientific dating fails in Western Roman context where Larsson claims that "Western Roman history is conventionally dated too old by 232 years" and also "Western Roman timber which produced radiocarbon dates more than 150 years younger than conventional dates." Their seem to have their own discrepancy though. Is it 150, 218, or 232 years in error? Jan 7 at 18:02

1 Answer 1


Dendrochrronological records are wishy washy subjects outside human/urban settings. Tree's planted in gardens, farms are tended to, hence growth data is compromised... In A dendrochronological publication dating of roman perids by "Petra Ossowski Larsson and Lars-Ake Larsson in 2014

The crossmatching of short oak tree-ring sequences and their absolute dating is a difficult and controversial process. The number of rings found to be acceptable varies according to laboratory, but it is not usually less that 50. Below this, the uniqueness of the ring pattern may be questionable.

  • 1
    The paper states that samples in excess of 70 rings (years) only were used which seems to make this answer not on-point. You can edit to improve it. Jan 8 at 7:51
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    Your first two sentences seem to contradict each other. Do you mean dendrochronology is flawed inside human/urban settings? Do you have a reference for that?
    – Oddthinking
    Jan 8 at 8:32
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    Please provide a link to the source of your quote. It appears appears to have been from Dendrochronology and Roman London by Hillam, Morgan and Tyers, not from Larsson and Larsson. Is that where you found it?
    – Oddthinking
    Jan 8 at 8:36

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