Scientists have stumbled upon a tree that has lived since the Byzantine Empire ruled much of the civilized world.
It was quite the find: researchers in Greece have found what they believe to be the oldest living thing on the continent of Europe, checking in at an astonishing 1,075 years old. Scientists used a method called dendrochronology on a Bosnian tree they found in a remote area of Greece, and the finding is not just for curiosity’s sake: such old trees help scientists better understand the history of the climate here on Earth, as they provide a time machine to hundreds of years ago.
Swedish dendrochronologist Paul J. Krusic, who led the expedition, said in a Stockhold University statement he was inspired to lead the expedition after reading a thesis about a forest in Greece. Once they found this particular tree, they performed a scientific analysis of the tree rings by taking a sample of the tree’s core without damaging it. Then they simply counted the rings.
Krusic and his team jokingly named the tree “Adonis,” after the Greek god of youthful beauty. They were surprised to see it survive for so long in fairly barren area, and that it had seen some many human empires come and go.
“It is quite remarkable that this large, complex and impressive organism has survived so long in such an inhospitable environment, in a land that has been civilized for over 3000 years, Krusic said. “Many years ago I read a thesis about this very interesting forest in Greece. In our research, we try to build long chronologies to construct climate histories, so finding living trees of old age is one of our motivations. To age the tree, we needed to take a core of wood, from the outside to the center. The core is one meter and has 1075 annual rings.”