Conservation project yields 6,500-year-old fir
An EU-backed habitat conservation project at Slovenia's sole national park has yielded a surprising find - a fir tree trunk that has been radiocarbon dated to 6,560 years old. The wood is so well preserved plans are afoot to make it into a musical instrument.
The trunk was one of several found during the restoration of a watering hole near the tiny village of Čadrg in the west of the country. The hole was one of 15 such restored as part of a €3.7 million project aimed at improving different habitat types at the Triglav National Park.
Speaking for the newspaper Delo, Gorazd Kutin, a local carpenter and nature protection supervisor, explained that they hit upon the old trunks at the depth of around one metre as they were cleaning up the pond early last year to remove old sediments, leaves and branches.
Him and his brother Jani Kutin, who is also a carpenter and an amateur archaeologist, suspected right away that these were no ordinary trunks, especially as they belonged to the silver fir, a species that has not been growing in the area for at least 200 years.
A 6,560-year-old silver fir discovered during the cleanup of a watering hole near Čadrg. Photo: Jani Kutin
With no one else being interested in the six logs, Jani Kutin decided to take them home to let them dry on his organic dairy farm, especially as the wood appeared to be healthy and extremely well preserved, he has told the Slovenian Press Agency.
The brothers notified the wood science department at the Ljubljana Biotechnical Faculty of the find to check for possible dating. Following the department's instructions they sent in samples for dendrochronology analysis, a method of dating by using tree rings.
However, the Ljubljana faculty was unable to date the logs because they were unable to match them to the database, which goes back only about 2,100 years. Thus the assumption was that all fir samples were all older than that.
The Ljubljana faculty's wood department then sent a sample of one of the trunks for radiocarbon dating to the Vienna Environmental Research Accelerator with the Triglav National Park covering the cost.
The results came back late last year, determining that that particular trunk is 6,560 years old, which the park described as an exceptional find in an announcement on its website earlier this year.
Jani Kutin says the trunk of that tree had been cut into planks before they knew its age and the wood has dried out nicely. What remains in logs, however, is still totally soaked even a year after being recovered from the soil.
Exposed to air, the wood of the 6,560-year-old silver fir has oxidised to obtain fine shades of grey. Photo: Jani Kutin
He is now planning to invest €1,000 himself for radiocarbon dating of two more samples to determine the age of the other chunks. He expects the results to come back in about half a year.
A musician and singer known for his duo Bakalina and band Bakalina Velika, who explore the local folk music traditions in a fusion of experimental world music, Kutin now hopes to give the ancient wood a new lease of life as a musical instrument.
"We would like to make a lyre, and perhaps a violin," he says. They are still discussing their ideas and options with instrument making masters.
The ancient fir is not the only treasure discovered in Čadrg, a village accessible by a narrow road from Tolmin that passes the Devil's Bridge above the spectacular Tolmin Gorge in the Soča Valley.
A decade ago, the Kutin brothers came across what archaeologists determined to be Mesolithic stone tools dating back some 9,000 years and later one of them found pottery shards. They alerted archaeologists, who then dug up an Iron Age burial site containing pottery, weapons, tools and jewellery. Both sites were quite close to the watering hole hiding the old fir trunks.