Tree ring dating techniques
The tree was cut down on August 6, 1964 by a graduate student and United States Forest Service personnel for research purposes. Different versions of the event and the decision-making process behind it exist, although a number of basic facts are agreed upon.
The name refers to the mythological figure Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods and gave it to man.
Bristlecones are notoriously hard to age because of their extremely contorted growth, and cutting of old trees is no longer allowed.
In the 1950s dendrochronologists were making active efforts at finding the oldest living tree species, in order to use the analysis of the rings for various research purposes, such as the evaluation of former climates, the dating of archaeological ruins, and the basic question of finding the oldest living things.
In 1963 he became aware of the bristlecone populations in the Snake Range and on Wheeler Peak in particular.
Based on the size, growth rate and growth forms of some of the trees he became convinced that some very old specimens existed on the mountain, and cored some of them, finding trees exceeding 3000 years.
The technique can date wood to exact calendar years, and tell much about the climate of specific years.
Prometheus was thus the oldest non-clonal organism yet discovered, with its innermost wood over 5000 years of age.
It is possible, however, that an older specimen occurs that has not yet been aged.
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