IPERION HSIntegrating Platforms for the European Research Infrastructure ON Heritage Science

CTinHS Lecture 6 – 2023/24: 

Pascale Fraiture and Vincent Labbas together will deliver the 6th lecture of the 2nd edition of the “Current Topics in Heritage Science” on the topic: Dendrochronology: Tree Rings, Art, Archaeology on Thursday, March 28th, at 3.00 pm (CET). 

Dendrochronology: Tree Rings, Art, Archaeology

Lesson #06 of the “Current Topics in Heritage Science” Edition 2 is focused on the dendrochronological approach applied to cultural heritage. Dendrochronology, the science that studies the annual growth rings of trees, is now widely used to date old wood. It is also essential for environmental and climatological research.

We’ll be taking a practical look at how it can be applied to cultural heritage, with particular emphasis on dating, reliability and accuracy.  The search for a date remains the best-known aim of the discipline. Dendroarchaeology, on the other hand, involves reconstructing the complex history of a building, an archaeological site or a work of art using the wood that has come down to us and how it was transformed by past societies.  But wood is also a living material. Throughout its life, it records in its rings events of both natural and man-made origin that have occurred in its environment.

Characterising this environment, the way in which it was exploited and, above all, locating it, is a major challenge in dendro-archaeological research to understand the socio-ecosystems of the past.

March 28, 2024 at 3 pm (CET)

You will learn

  • How does the method work
  • What are its advantages and limitations (dating and provenancing purposes)
  • Which needs are necessary for a successful dendrochronological study

Key topics we’ll cover

  • Principles of dendrochronology (dendro-archaeology)
  • Methods for recording and dating tree rings
  • The precision degree of dating and provenancing purposes
  • Potentials and future frontiers of the discipline

45 minutes (30 minutes presentation + 15 minutes Q&A)


Pascale Fraiture, PhD, is the Head of the Dendrochronology Laboratory at the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage, Brussels (KIK-IRPA) since 2003. Archaeologist and art historian specialised in dendro-archaeology applied to panel paintings, 15-17th c. (PhD ULiège, B, 2007) and sculptures, she has developed these specificities in interdisciplinary research projects and for scientific service, and is regularly commissioned by Belgian and abroad institutions. Her research in dendro-dating, dendro-archaeology, dendro-provenancing as well as in methodological developments have led her to promote the FED-tWIN project “Deep in Heritage” in collaboration with the University of Liège (co-promotor Line Van Wersh) and financed by the Belgian Science Policy BELSPO (prf024). The aims are is to create an homogeneous Belgian national dendrochronological database, which will provide a better coverage of certain periods or regions actually less covered by the partner laboratories and lay the foundations for research into dendrodating performance and provenance.

Vincent Labbas, Ph, has studied vernacular construction in the Alps and its close relationship with forestry through building archaeology and dendrochronology (Aix-Marseille University). This field of expertise led him to develop the relationship between resource forests and consumption areas on south-western Europe mountain watershed scale, particularly in the French Pyrenees, at the University of Toulouse. He then joined the ANR Bendys project (led by Vanessa Py-Saragaglia, CNRS) to study the ancient beech-fir forests past trajectories using dendroarchaeology. Forestry practices, uses and provenance are the key issues in current dendroarchaeology research. Vincent Labbas is currently engaged full time in the FED-tWIN project “Deep in Heritage” to resolve its issues.


Recommended readings

Baillie M. G. L., 1995. A Slice through Time. Dendrochronology and Precision Dating, Londres, 176 p.

Charruadas P., Cremer S., Hoffsummer P., Modrie S., Sosnowska P. & Weitz A., 2023. Wood Used in Brussels’ Old Buildings: Origin, Characterisation, and Use (12th–19th Centuries), International Journal of Wood Culture, 3(1-3), p. 86-122.

Daly A. & Tyers I., 2022. The sources of Baltic oak, Journal of Archaeological Science 139, doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2022.105550

Domínguez-Delmás M., Daly A., & Haneca K. (2023). From Forests to Heritage: Unravelling the Journey of Historical Timbers and Wooden Cultural Heritage, International Journal of Wood Culture, 3(1-3), 1-7.

Fraiture P., 2009. Contribution of dendrochronology to understanding of wood procurement sources for panel paintings in the former Southern Netherlands from 1450 to 1650, Dendrochronologia 27, p. 95-111.

Fraiture P. (dir.), 2011. Tree Rings, Art, Archaeology. Proceedings of the conference, Brussels, Royal Institute of Cultural Heritage, 10-12 February 2010, Brussels, Royal Institute of Cultural Heritage, Scientia Artis 7.

Fraiture P., Charruadas P., Gautier P., Piavaux M., Sosnowska P. (eds), 2016. Between Carpentry and Joinery. Wood finishing work in European Medieval and Modern Architecture, Scientia Artis 12, Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage, Brussels, 272 p.

Fraiture P., 2020. Results of the Dendrochronological Investigation into the Saint Denis Altarpiece in Liège: Sculptures, Painted Wings and Cases, in Mercier E., De Boodt R. & Kairis P.-Y. (eds), Flesh, Gold and Wood. The Saint-Denis altarpiece in Liège and the question of partial paint practices in the 16th century, Proceedings of the Conference held at the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage in Brussels, 22-24 October 2015, Brussels, Royal Institute of Cultural Heritage, Scientia Artis 18, p. 115-146.

Fraiture P, 2020. Dendrochronological study, in: Gruber G. & Oberthaler E., Rubens’s Great Landscape with a Tempest, Anatomy of a Masterpiece, Wien/München, p.67-71.

Fritts H. C., 1976. Tree rings and Climate, Academic Press, London, 567 p.

Haneca K., Wazny T., van Acker J. & Beeckman H., 2005. Provenancing Baltic Timber from Art Historical Objects : Success and Limitations, in Journal of Archaeological Science, 32, p. 261-271.

Hollstein E., 1980. Mitteleuropaïsche Eichenchronologie, Trierer dendrochronologische Forschungen zur Archäologie und Kunstgeschichte, Trierer Grabungen und Forschungen, Rheinisches Landesmuseum Trier 11, Mainz am Rhein, 273 p.

Kaennel M. & Schweingruber F. H., 1995. Multilingual Glossary of Dendrochronology. Terms and Definitions in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Russian, Berne, Stuttgart, Vienne, 467 p.

Labbas V., Le Roy M. & Shindo L., 2022. Latest developments of dendro-archaeology in the French Alps: Assessing changes in mountain forests exploitation over the last millennium. Dendrochronologia76, 126019.

Schweingruber F. H., 1988. Tree-rings, Basics and Applications of Dendrochronology, Dordrecht, 276 p.

Registration form for Lecture 6 – 2023/24