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One of most iconic sites in American dendrochronology is the National Historical Park at Chaco Canyon. Timbers from multi-storey pueblo houses such as the iconic “Pueblo Bonito” were among the very first used in the development of the science of dendrochronology by A.E. Douglass (1929). Remarkably, of the 7,708 wood samples from Chaco Canyon currently held in the Laboratory of Tree Ring Research (University of Arizona) only about 36% could be dendrochronologically dated. This can be quite typical at such sites, where there is often a large quantity of shorter lived or complacent wood that has not been suitable for traditional dendrochronological work, but which never-the-less offers substantial potential to augment our understanding of the site and its environmental history. This collaborative research project, in partnership with Professor C. Pearson and S. Belmecheri at the Laboratory of Tree Ring Research (University of Arizona) aims to apply the emerging technique of stable isotope dendrochronology to previously undated timbers, with a view to refining the chronology of this site and presenting a test case to be modelled at other SW sites. The project will also aim to develop an isotope-based palaeoclimate reconstruction capable of capturing the true magnitude of extreme “mega-drought” events and to explore their development and persistence through time, in concert with patterns of increased rainfall thought to correspond with periods of site expansion.

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