Is an Aboriginal tale of an ancient volcano the oldest story ever told?

On Landsat images of the Central Andes there are well in excess of 1, topographic features whose distinctive morphologies indicates that they are volcanoes. Clearly, it would be impractical to provide descriptions of all these volcanoes, although we have attempted to catalog them Appendix II. Furthermore, it is clear from their degraded morphologies that most of these volcanoes can be confidently identified as “extinct”; i. Given the hyperarid environment of the Atacama desert and the slow erosion rates, many of these may be as much as million years old. In this compilation, we have attempted to select only those volcanoes that are potentially active. As explained earlier, we eschew the plain term active deliberately, since it can cause confusion. Identification of a volcano as potentially active is a difficult but important task. We note that several disastrous eruptions of modern times have taken place on volcanoes not thought to be ‘active’ e. El Chichon, Mexico, , and that the eruption of Mt. Lamington New Guinea in took place on a mountain not even recognised as a volcano.


There are several other possible sources of error that need to be considered. The errors are of four general types:. To verify the accuracy of the method, several artefacts that were datable by other techniques were tested; the results of the testing were in reasonable agreement with the true ages of the objects. This discrepancy, often called the de Vries effect, was resolved by the study of tree rings.

Two different trends can be seen in the tree ring series. First, there is a long-term oscillation with a period of about 9, years, which causes radiocarbon dates to be older than true dates for the last 2, years and too young before that.

are found, but we can constrain their ages by dating igneous rocks that cut across sedimentary rocks, or volcanic ash layers that lie within sedimentary layers.

A long, long time ago, the Indigenous Gunditjmara people — the traditional owners of lands in southwest Victoria, Australia — are said to have witnessed something truly remarkable. An ancient oral tradition , passed down for countless generations, tells of how an ancestral creator-being transformed into the fiery volcano, Budj Bim. Almost 40, years later, new scientific evidence suggests this long-shared legend of the Dreaming could be much more than a myth.

New mineral-dating measurements conducted by Australian scientists highlight the possibility that the traditional telling of Budj Bim’s origins may be an actual account of two historic volcanic eruptions that took place in the region about 37, years ago — which, if true, might make this the oldest story ever told on Earth.

Up until now, most evidence for the oldest known human habitation in Australia comes from radiocarbon dating or optically stimulated luminescence OSL dating, using samples of ancient charcoal, or sediments from rock shelters. Unfortunately, a lack of both ceramic artefacts and permanent structures in the Indigenous Australian context makes finding archaeological samples a challenge. Only six sites in southeast Australia have been definitively dated to older than 30, years, the researchers say — despite evidence from elsewhere in the country suggesting it could have been inhabited as far back as 65, years ago , or even older.

Luckily, recent technological advancements in an alternative technique called argon—argon dating could provide new ways of dating volcanic rock in the southeast landscape, especially when coupled with interpretations of cultural knowledge, the authors suggest.

How paleontologists tell time

Some seem as fresh as if they were laid down yesterday. But how old are they, really? Scientists are now dating these ancient volcanic eruptions with a method that involves a curious kind of clock—the cosmic rays emitted by stars. Strawberry Crater Credit U. Forest Service Listen Listening

In areas like north America, there are some well controlled radiocarbon dated stratigraphies for major volcanoes, but in the Central Andes, radiometrically.

Volcanological studies require dating of volcanic ejecta to within several tens of kiloyears ka. However, such dating presents difficulties because of adequate methods are few and sampling problems are inherent. Radiocarbon 14 C dating is applicable for ages from several hundred years to a few tens of thousands of years. Nevertheless, the possible occurrence of contaminants such as mold, mildew, and fungus on samples complicates the interpretation of dating results. Moreover, during 14 C dating, one frequently encounters difficulties in collecting datable organic material in volcanic contexts.

Although thermoluminescence TL and optically stimulated luminescence OSL dating have been used widely for archaeological studies, this method entails difficulties because it requires quartz for accurate dating e. Actually, TL dating using quartz xenoliths in scoria Rufer et al. There is, however, no quartz in Kannabe scoria, as described below. Paleomagnetic dating represents an alternative.

19.4 Isotopic Dating Methods

From the soaring peaks of stratovolcanoes to the depths of calderas, volcanoes are some of the most awe-inspiring geographical features on the planet. Start by exploring these seven notable volcanoes: Kilauea in Hawaii, U. Helens in Washington, U.

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Originally, fossils only provided us with relative ages because, although early paleontologists understood biological succession, they did not know the absolute ages of the different organisms. It was only in the early part of the 20th century, when isotopic dating methods were first applied, that it became possible to discover the absolute ages of the rocks containing fossils.

In most cases, we cannot use isotopic techniques to directly date fossils or the sedimentary rocks in which they are found, but we can constrain their ages by dating igneous rocks that cut across sedimentary rocks, or volcanic ash layers that lie within sedimentary layers. Isotopic dating of rocks, or the minerals within them, is based upon the fact that we know the decay rates of certain unstable isotopes of elements, and that these decay rates have been constant throughout geological time.

It is also based on the premise that when the atoms of an element decay within a mineral or a rock, they remain trapped in the mineral or rock, and do not escape. It has a half-life of 1. In order to use the K-Ar dating technique, we need to have an igneous or metamorphic rock that includes a potassium-bearing mineral. One good example is granite, which contains the mineral potassium feldspar Figure Potassium feldspar does not contain any argon when it forms. Over time, the 40 K in the feldspar decays to 40 Ar.

The atoms of 40 Ar remain embedded within the crystal, unless the rock is subjected to high temperatures after it forms. The sample must be analyzed using a very sensitive mass-spectrometer, which can detect the differences between the masses of atoms, and can therefore distinguish between 40 K and the much more abundant 39 K. The minerals biotite and hornblende are also commonly used for K-Ar dating.

Medieval “Dark Eclipse” Helps Date Ice Cores — and Time Volcanic Eruptions

To support our nonprofit science journalism, please make a tax-deductible gift today. Long ago, four giant beings arrived in southeast Australia. Three strode out to other parts of the continent, but one crouched in place. His body transformed into a volcano called Budj Bim, and his teeth became the lava the volcano spat out.

Dating young (

Just like a teenager wanting to be older, volcanoes can lie about their age, or at least about their activities. For kids, it might be little white lies, but volcanoes can tell big lies with big consequences. Our research , published today in Nature Communications , uncovers one such volcanic lie. Accurate dating of prehistoric eruptions is important as it allows scientists to correlate them with other records , such as large earthquakes, Antarctic ice cores, historical events like Mediterranean civilisation milestones , and climatic events like the Little Ice Age.

This gives us a better understanding of the links between volcanism and the natural and cultural environment. The caldera formed after the collapse of a magma chamber roof following a massive eruption more than 20, years ago. Now it seems that the Taupo eruption that occurred in the early part of the first millennium has been lying about its age. But like many lies, it was eventually found out, and it reveals exciting processes we hadn’t understood before.

The eruption of Taupo in the first millennium has been dated many times with radiocarbon, yielding a surprisingly large spread of ages between 36CE and CE. Radiocarbon dating of organic material is based on the concentrations of radioactive carbon in a sample remaining after the organisms’ death. Over the past two decades, the method has been refined greatly by combining it with dendrochronology, the study of the environmental effects on the width of tree rings through time.

Radiocarbon dating of tree ring records has allowed scientists to construct a reliable record of the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere through time.

10,000 Years of Volcanoes

The U. Geological Survey defines a volcano as a vent in Earth’s surface, either on land or on the seafloor, from which molten rock called magma, as well as ash and gases, can erupt or ooze. Different types of volcanoes erupt in different ways, with some erupting spectacularly and others, most notably Hawaii’s shield volcanoes, steadily oozing lava.

K/Ar dating of Neogene calc-alkaline volcanic rocks from Transcarpathian Ukraine. Article (PDF Available) in Geologica Carpathica 51(2) · April with

The cataclysm sent seismic waves shuddering through the earth, cracking through layers of rock and inundating nearby islands with catastrophic waves. Rivers of searing hot debris coated the ground; clouds of ash filled the sky. The fallout from the eruption was so far-reaching that it was felt many hundreds of miles away. But in the millennia since, the Earth has repaired itself, cloaking most traces of the catastrophic event. Though a combination of artifacts, written records and chemical analysis tentatively date the eruption to sometime between and B.

Now, a team of scientists has found a crucial clue in an unlikely place: the wood of an ancient grove of juniper trees, which suggests that the volcano blew its top around the year B. Previous tree ring work by Pearson and her colleagues looked at chemical signatures in wood to narrow the likely range of the eruption to an approximate century but was unable to pin down a specific year.

As they sprout from seedlings, trees grow in height and width, adding a concentric layer of tissue to their trunks roughly once a year. Tree rings record information about the environment, diligently archiving data on important climatic factors like rainfall, temperature and the health of local soil. Disruptions get tabulated, too, appearing as anomalies—in this case, strange-looking rings—that stick out from the rest of the bunch.

This appears to have been the case for a collection of timbers used to construct the Midas Mound Tumulus, an ancient Turkish tomb thought to hail from the same era as the Thera eruption. Cut from juniper trees, these pieces of wood all contained an unusually pale, wide band of tissue that reminded the researchers of a frost ring—a phenomenon previously linked to volcanic eruptions, says study author Matthew Salzer, a tree ring researcher at the University of Arizona, in the statement.

The volcanic link was unlikely to be a coincidence, the researchers reasoned. Ring patterns in trees that are still alive can be analyzed and dated, tying each specific ring to a particular year by simply counting backward.

Violent Volcanoes

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