Sometime during the 6th century, a mudslide felled some trees along western New York's Genesee River. Today, Perry, New York, woodworker Thomas Pedlow works wood from those trees into boxes and other items.

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As Tom tells it, a few years back Don Eckler, shown above, a Perry-area landowner, discovered some tree trunks peeking from the mud of the receding river. With equipment, he had a few of them hauled out onto his adjoining land, washed them off, and then had them sawn into boards.

Curious as to how old the well-preserved wood might be, Eckler had a local college send samples of it to a Florida carbon-dating firm. The answer was 1,500 years. The wood dated to about 500 A.D. Some of it—presumed to be a type of birch—had acquired a dark patina from minerals in the mud. The softwood appeared to be hemlock, but little was usable because it displayed ring shake.

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Samples of 1,500-year-oldbirch wood from the mud ofNew York's Genesee River.That's quartersawn at leftand flatsawn at right.