Course Identification

Radiocarbon, Dendrochronology and Stable isotopes in Science and Archaeology

Lecturers and Teaching Assistants

Dr. Lior Regev, Dr. Johana Regev, Prof. Elisabetta Boaretto

Course Schedule and Location

Second Semester
Tuesday, 14:15 - 16:00

Field of Study, Course Type and Credit Points

Life Sciences (Scientific Archeology Track): Lecture; Obligatory; Core; 2.00 points
Chemical Sciences: Lecture; Elective; Regular; 2.00 points
Life Sciences: Lecture; Elective; Regular; 2.00 points


Students must participate to the laboratories which will be done according to the restriction of Covid-19 and will be coordinate with the students.
room 690 in Benoziyo Biological Science 6th floor





Language of Instruction


Attendance and participation

Required in at least 80% of the lectures

Grade Type

Numerical (out of 100)

Grade Breakdown (in %)


Evaluation Type


Scheduled date 1


Estimated Weekly Independent Workload (in hours)



The study of the past relies on archives that preserve information about climate, rain, and vegetation. These archives are found in archaeological sites where materials related to cultures, human activities, and relations with other sites are together. In order to decipher the past,its chronology, paleoclimate and the implication for the cultural or activities changes, several scientific methods need to be applied.

The course aims to provide an overview of these methods, using specific case studies and handson in the laboratory (AMS radiocarbon, stable  isotopes, tree-rings, botanical identification) on samples from archaeological sites.


Lesson 1: Introduction – What is ‘archaeological science’ and the contribution of tree rings and isotopes to our understanding of past cultural and climatic events

Lesson 2: Radiocarbon dating of botanical remains, chronology

Lesson 3: Basic of dendrochronology:  Concepts of tree anatomy, ecology and physiology, and the difficulty of problematic rings

Lesson 4-5:  Tree coring, sample preparation and measurement of a tree-ring: theory and lab. 

Lesson 6: Isotopes in tree rings: environmental proxy

Lesson 7: Charred tree rings: Application in archaeology and palaeoclimate

Lesson 8-9-10: Wood Identification of charred botanical remains and hands-on in the lab

Lesson 11: Case studies: The Natufian and the Younger Dryas climate change: culture and climate any relation. The olive tree and tree rings

Lesson 12-13: student presentations

The course is designed primarily for archaeological science students at the Weizmann Institute and elsewhere, but can also be an enriching experience for students at the Weizmann Institute from any of the major disciplines. 


Learning Outcomes

Students will acquire broad knowledge about one of the most important natural archives in archaeology: trees and charred trees.


Reading List

Black, B.A., Griffin, D., van der Sleen, P., Wanamaker, A.D., Speer, J.H., Frank, D.C., Stahle, D.W., Pederson, N., Copenheaver, C.A., Trouet, V., Griffin, S. & Gillanders, B.M. (2016) The value of crossdating to retain high-frequency variability, climate signals, and extreme events in environmental proxies. Global Change Biology, 22, 2582–2595.

Douglass, A.E. (1941) Crossdating in Dendrochronology. Journal of Forestry, 39, 825–831.

Grissino Mayer, H.D. (2003) A manual and tutorial for the proper use of an incremental borer. Tree-ring Research, 59, 63–79.

Briffa, K.R., Osborn, T.J. & Schweingruber, F.H. (2004) Large-scale temperature inferences from tree rings: a review. Global and Planetary Change, 40, 11–26.

Haneca, K., ?Cufar, K., & Beeckman, H. (2009) Oaks, tree-rings and wooden cultural heritage: a review of the main characteristics and applications of oak dendrochronology in Europe. Journal of Archaeological Science, 36, 1–11.

McCarroll, D. & Loader, N.J. (2004) Stable isotopes in tree rings. Quaternary Science Reviews, 23, 771–801.

Trouet, V. (2020). Tree Story: The History of the World Written in Rings. JHU Press.


V. Caracuta, B. Alex, L. Regev, J. Regev, E. Mintz, O. Barzilai, I. Hershkovitz, E. Boaretto, ”The Marine Isotope Stage 3 landscape around Manot Cave (Israel) and the food habits of anatomically modern humans: New insights from the anthracological record and stable carbon isotope analysis of wild almond (Amygdalus sp.)” Journal Human Evolution in press

V. Caracuta, M. Weinstein-Evron, R. Yeshurun, D. Kaufman, A. Tsatskin and E. Boaretto,  “Charred wood remains in the Natufian sequence of El-Wad terrace 1 (Israel): New insights into the climatic, environmental and cultural changes at the end of the Pleistocene” Quaternary Science Reviews 131 (A), (2016), 20-32

Y. Ehrlich, L. Regev and E. Boaretto, “Radiocarbon analysis of modern olive wood raises doubts concerning a crucial piece of evidence in dating Santorini eruption”, Scientific Reports 8 (2018) 11841

Y.  Ehrlich, L. Regev, E. Boaretto “Discovery of annual growth in a modern olive branch based on carbon isotopes and implications for the Bronze Age volcanic eruption of Santorini” Nature Scientific Reports Scientific Reports 11 (2021) 1–11