The oldest tree cut down by a human

The oldest tree cut down by a human


In 1964, American scientist Donald Currey wanted to do more research on the “Little Ice Age” which took place between 1300 and 1800, a time when the Earth’s temperature slightly dropped, reaching its lowest point sometime in the 1600s.

In order to conduct his research, he decided to find a tree which had lived during this entire period and study it. He found one in the Great Basin National Park in Nevada, but because of its thickness, he could not study it properly, so he asked the Forest Service District if he could cut it down. He did, but what he discovered was more than he had hoped: as he counted the tree’s rings, he found that it was about 5000 years old, so he was the one who cut down the oldest tree in the world at that moment.

This discovery outraged the general public and a group of people which had named the tree Prometheus even before it was cut, started to wonder and fuel the debates whether science was worth the cost of the resources it destroyed.  The conflict reached such a level that even politicians got involved and different agenices responsible for natural resources started to blame each other. In the end, nothing was decided and the world eventually moved on.

Nowadays it is estimated that the tree was actally about 4800 years old and not 5000 as Donald Currey calculated because a tree does not necessarily grow a new ring every year. However, humanity may have never known about this amazing tree if it had not been for Currey.



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