May 12, 2013 00:57 Pat Shingleton for Tuesday, March 19, 2013 Pat Shingleton for Tuesday, March 19, 2013 Advocate story May 12, 2013 Comments Italian violin makers in the 17th and 18th centuries created instruments known for their superior quality. Those crafted by Antonio Stradivari are the most sought-after violins of all time. Stradivari lived in Cremona, Italy, from 1644 to 1737, an era designated as the Little Ice Age. It is also known as Maunder Minimum due to reduced solar activity. Scientists believe a change in climate affected tree growth that contributed to the improved acoustic quality of these violins. Other Cremonese artisans used only wood grown during the Maunder Minimum. Researchers suspect the slow, even growth of wood patterns from this era increased the wood’s density, making it stronger. Many believed Stradivari and others implemented special techniques by using special ovens, wood seasoning or varnish. Updated research credits climate as the key ingredient. Fastcast: Comfortable.