Thursday, 24 April 2008

10,000 Year Old Tree

Swedish Tree Is The Oldest In The World

Scientists in Sweden have uncovered a new record-holder for the title of "world's oldest tree." Previously, the oldest tree known to the world was a bristlecone pine tree in California called the "Methuselah tree." At 4,768 years of age, the Methuselah tree is indeed venerable, but compared to this spruce it's still just a young whippersnapper. The newly discovered tree is estimated to be 9,950 years old!

You might expect a tree this old to be tall, thick and majestic, much like a less talkative version of Treebeard the Ent in The Lord of the Rings. However, this tree is actually rather puny-it looks more like Charlie Brown's Christmas tree than one of the oldest living organisms on the planet.


The tree appears so small and unremarkable because the trunk itself is actually very young. The roots, however, have been around since the end of the Ice Age. As the BBC reported on April 17, the tree has gone through a series of trunks or stems, with each one lasting approximately 600 years. Every year, heavy winter snow pushes the lowest branches of the tree into the ground, where they take root. Whenever the old trunk dies, one of these clones rises up from the old rootstock to replace it.

10,000 years

10,000 years is a very, very long time. So, to put this tree's lifespan into perspective, here is a timeline of events that have taken place since it first took root and began to grow:

7,542 BC - Spruce tree takes root on Fulu Mountain in Dalarna, Switzerland

7,500 BC - The world's first known city, Catalhoyuk, was founded around this time.

6000 BC (approximately) - Agriculture arrives in Europe

3500-3200 BC - Cuneiform, the first writing system, is invented in Sumeria. Also, the earliest known use of the wheel dates to this time. The first known instance of a wheel being used was for throwing pots in 3500 BC, but archaeological evidence shows that people were using for transportation by 3200 BC.

2,600 BC - The first Egyptian pyramid, the Pyramid of Djoser, was constructed by the architect Imhotep. For this accomplishment, Imhotep was deified after his death.

1,500 BC - Stonehenge completed

700-800 BC - The Iliad and The Odyssey date to this time. According to tradition, these Greek classics were both composed by a blind poet named Homer.

399 BC - In Athens, the philosopher Socrates was forced to drink a fatal dose of hemlock for "corrupting Athenian youth."

333 BC - Alexander the Great conquers Persia

44 BC - Julius Caesar is appointed dictator of Rome; Rome ceases to function as a republic and becomes an empire

30 AD - Cleopatra, the last Queen of Egypt, commits suicide along with her lover, Roman general Marc Antony.

27 BC-180 AD - The Pax Romana, a period of widespread peace and prosperity throughout the Roman Empire

476 AD - The last Roman Emperor loses his throne

800 AD - Vikings begin to plunder and pillage their way into the rest of Europe

1000 AD - Leif Erikson becomes the first European to "discover" North America

1215 AD - King John is forced to sign the Magna Carta

1334 AD - The Black Plague begins to spread, killing anywhere from 30-50% of the European population

1370 - The Great Wall of China is completed

1477 - Invention of the printing press in Europe

1420-1600 - The Italian Renaissance revolutionizes European art, architecture and literature

1492 - Columbus sails the ocean blue, Europe rediscovers America

1517 - Martin Luther launches the Reformation, and Protestants break with the Catholic Church

1776 - America declares independence from Britain

1914-1918 - World War I devastates Europe

1937-1945 - World War 2 devastates Europe and Asia

1961 - First Human in Space

1969 - Neil Armstrong becomes the first human to set foot on the surface of the moon

2007 - Swedish scientists discover the ancient spruce tree while conducting a tree census in the mountains of Sweden.

Isn't that amazing?

The roots of this one tree have been growing since before the dawn of recorded history! In fact, ancient Sumer, the first human society that had all the characteristics that anthropologists and historians call "civilization," was established around 6000 BC. So, unless an older civilization is discovered sometime in the future, this spruce tree is actually older than civilization itself by more than 1000 years!

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