Dendroarchaeological dating of Renaissance Mudejar artefacts in western Spain

Publication date: August 2018Source:Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 96
Author(s): Daniel Patón Domínguez, Jose M. González Bornay, Fidel A. Roig Juñent
The absence of precise dates in Extremadura’s Renaissance heritage can generate ambiguities that hinder the cultural interpretation of regional history. The analysis of the duration of the art styles, the date of construction of buildings and artefacts or the exact determination of restoration periods are severely affected by the absence of specific chronological information. Dendrochronology can help to resolve these unknowns. We analysed historical woods from timbers, painting panelings, ceilings, furniture and art objects, all from two Renaissance monumental buildings: the San Vicente Ferrer church in the city of Plasencia and the Las Veletas palace in Cáceres, both in Spain. We used a local chronology of living trees as reference. This living chronology was developed with tree-ring data hosted in the International Tree Ring Data Bank (ITRDB) but reinforced with recent wood samplings from the Sierra de Gredos, a mountainous area close to the historic sites. After a step-by-step crossdating process, the historical timbers were dated and a floating chronology was built. The comparison between this floating chronology and that obtained from living trees reached a Pearson-r correlation of 0.65 with a temporal overlap of 106 years. Thus the living tree-ring chronology was extended 253 years into the past (from 1769 CE to 1516 CE), allowing the dating of new historical materials that may arise in the future for this period and confirming that tree-ring dating is a feasible technique to use in the dating of historic buildings and artefacts in western Spain. The results indicate that it is feasible to admit that Mudejar art, a mixture of Arab and Christian styles, remained in active development in Extremadura for much longer than in any other regions of Spain.