Tree-Ring Dating and the Village Cultures of the South Dakotas

Author(s): W. W. Caldwell

Year: 1962


For the past several years the Smithsonian Institution has been concerned with the problem of dating cultural developments and climatic events along the main stem of the Missouri River (see Progress. Missouri River Basin, Oct.-Dec., 1959, pp.42-60). One of the most profitable approaches has been through dendrochronology, the charting and comparison of annual growth rings of trees. The study of dendrochronology is not new in the Plains. The work of Harry Weakly in central and western Nebraska, and of George Will in North Dakota is well known to prehistorians and others concerned with long-range developments within the Missouri Basin. Tree rings do reflect far ranging, region-wide happenings but for purposes of comparison and dating, the minutiae of local and sub-regional environment are also of great importance. Thus despite the previous in­ investigations, there are large areas of the Basin for which we have no reliable data. Filling the gaps, then, is a matter of considerable importance. One of the most important such gaps is that stretch of the Missouri River within the Big Bend and lower Oahe Reservoirs. Much of the recent archeological work of the Smithsonian Institution has been concentrated here. It is the heartland of the sedentary farming peoples who held the middle Missouri country prior to the coming of the white man.

During the summers of 1958 and 1959 this region was intensively prospected, searching for living trees, particularly cedars (Juniperus) that were old enough to provide the central framework for our study. It came as no surprise that not many trees of substantial age were to be found. Most of the accessible cedar timber was cut long ago. We have many records of "woodhawks", men who eked out a living of sorts cutting cedar for steamboat fuel, and more recently, ranchers and others have further reduced the numbers of ancient trees. Fortunately a few have survived, particularly in the "breaks" areas along the edges of the Missouri trench. These are highly important because, lacking the relatively constant water supply of flood plain growth, they reflect annual variations in moisture with considerable accuracy.

Cite this Record

Tree-Ring Dating and the Village Cultures of the South Dakotas. W. W. Caldwell. 1962 ( tDAR id: 394099) ; doi:10.6067/XCV83J3G38

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Spatial Coverage

min long: -104.326; min lat: 42.618 ; max long: -96.152; max lat: 46.195 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Anne Vawser

Contributor(s): W. W. Caldwell

Sponsor(s): Missouri River Basin Survey, Smithsonian Institution


General Note: Multiple tDAR resources were created in the past by the National Archaeological Database. All useful and important information has been combined into this current resource.

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