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His research culminated in proving that tree ring width varies with annual rainfall.
Not only that, it varies regionally, such that all trees within a specific species and region will show the same relative growth during wet years and dry years.
Secondly, annual rainfall is a regional climatic event, and so tree ring dates for the southwest are of no use in other regions of the world.
It is certainly no exaggeration to call the invention of radiocarbon dating a revolution.
The scholar most associated with the rules of stratigraphy (or law of superposition) is probably the geologist Charles Lyell.
The basis for stratigraphy seems quite intuitive today, but its applications were no less than earth-shattering to archaeological theory.
The method is still a standard for cemetery studies.
Clark Wissler, an anthropologist researching Native American groups in the Southwest, recognized the potential for such dating, and brought Douglass subfossil wood from puebloan ruins.
Unfortunately, the wood from the pueblos did not fit into Douglass's record, and over the next 12 years, they searched in vain for a connecting ring pattern, building a second prehistoric sequence of 585 years.
Plotting several curves can allow the archaeologist to develop a relative chronology for an entire site or group of sites.
For detailed information about how seriation works, see Seriation: A Step by Step Description.
In other words, artifacts found in the upper layers of a site will have been deposited more recently than those found in the lower layers.