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Radiocarbon measurements are always reported in terms of years `before present' (BP).This figure is directly based on the proportion of radiocarbon found in the sample.To give an example if a sample is found to have a radiocarbon concentration exactly half of that for material which was modern in 1950 the radiocarbon measurement would be reported as 5568 BP.For two important reasons, this does not mean that the sample comes from 3619 BC: Many types of tree reliably lay down one tree ring every year.), of the White Mountains in California , has served this purpose greater than any other species of tree on the planet.With some living specimens attaining ages nearing 5,000 years, and dead matter persisting for another several thousand, these ancient trees have provided climatologists, geologists, archaeologists, and dendochronologists with a vital and continuous tree-ring chronology that dates back to the last Ice Age.
Using very old trees (such as the Bristlecone Pines in the western U. A.), it is possible to make measurements back to a few thousand years ago.Together we embarked on a two-week journey through east-central California , examining several aspects of this region's natural history.In this illustration we gather in front of the Patriarch, the world's largest bristlecone pine.Greatly simplified, the process samples living and dead trees in a given area.The tree-ring patterns are matched, and laid down in series, building a continuous timeline of known dates.