Facts about tree ring dating
Whether Prometheus should have been considered the oldest organism ever known depends on the definition of "oldest" and "organism".Certain sprouting (clonal) organisms, such as creosote bush or aspen, may have older individuals if the entire clonal organism is considered.
In the 1950s dendrochronologists were making active efforts to find the oldest living tree species in order to use the analysis of the rings for various research purposes, such as the evaluation of former climates, the dating of archaeological ruins, and addressing the basic scientific question of maximum potential lifespan.
In 1963 he became aware of the bristlecone populations in the Snake Range in general, and on Wheeler Peak in particular.
Based on the trees' size, growth rate and growth forms, he became convinced that some were very old, cored some of them, and found trees exceeding 3,000 years in age, but Currey was not able to obtain a continuous series of overlapping cores from WPN-114. It is not clear whether Currey requested, or Forest Service personnel suggested, that he cut down and section the tree in lieu of coring it.
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.