Each tree then, contains a record of rainfall for the length of its life, expressed in density, trace element content, stable isotope composition, and intra-annual growth ring width.Using local pine trees, Douglass built a 450 year record of the tree ring variability.For example, since each Roman emperor had his own face stamped on coins during his realm, and dates for emperor's realms are known from historical records, the date a coin was minted may be discerned by identifying the emperor depicted.
For detailed information about how seriation works, see Seriation: A Step by Step Description.
And, outside of certain periods in our past, there simply were no chronologically dated objects, or the necessary depth and detail of history that would assist in chronologically dating civilizations.
Without those, the archaeologists were in the dark as to the age of various societies. The use of tree ring data to determine chronological dates, dendrochronology, was first developed in the American southwest by astronomer Andrew Ellicott Douglass.
There are dendrochronological records for Europe and the Aegean, and the International Tree Ring Database has contributions from 21 different countries.
The main drawback to dendrochronology is its reliance on the existence of relatively long-lived vegetation with annual growth rings.