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In the article, Currey indicates that he sectioned the tree as much to determine whether the oldest bristlecones were necessarily confined to California's White Mountains (as some dendrochronologists had been claiming) as from its usefulness in regard to studies of the Little Ice Age.Whatever the rationale, the tree was cut down and sectioned in August 1964, and several pieces of the sections were hauled out to be processed and analyzed, first by Currey, then by others in later years.A few years later, this was increased to 4862 by Donald Graybill of the University of Arizona's Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research.These ring counts were done on a trunk cross-section taken about 2.5 m (8 feet) above the original germination point of the tree, because the innermost rings were missing below that point.
At least one person involved says that Currey knew that to be true at the time, although there is no known admission from Currey that he did, and others have disputed that the tree, based on observation alone, was obviously much older than the others.There is also some uncertainty as to why a core sample could not be obtained.One version has it that he broke or lodged his only long increment borer and could not obtain another before the end of the field season; another claims he broke two of them, while another implies that a core sample was too difficult to obtain and also would not provide as much definitive information as a full cross-section of the tree.Sections or pieces of the tree have ended up in various places, some of them publicly accessible, including the Great Basin National Park visitor center (Baker, Nevada), the Ely Convention Center (Ely, Nevada), the University of Arizona Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research (Tucson, Arizona), and the U. Forest Service's Institute of Forest Genetics (Placerville, California).It has been argued that the cutting down of Prometheus was an important factor in the movement to protect bristlecones in general, and the Wheeler Peak groves in particular.
Adjusting Graybill's figure by adding the estimated number of years required to reach that height, plus a correction for the estimated number of missing rings (not uncommon in trees at the tree line), it is probable that the tree was at least 5000 years old when felled. non-clonal) organism at the time, exceeding even the Methuselah tree of the White Mountains' Schulman Grove, in California, though Methuselah was later redated to 4845 years old.