Fire and Humans in Resilient Ecosystems in the American Southwest

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

Twenty-first century landscape fires transform ecosystems, damage heritage resources, and threaten human communities across the globe. Although policymakers tend to consider contemporary fire problems a unique feature of an industrialized and warming world, human communities have lived in fire-prone settings for millennia. Deep, place-based knowledge of fire impacts on ecosystems undoubtedly facilitated the sustainability of these human communities. Active research in the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico integrates ethnographic, archaeological, paleoclimate, paleoecological, and simulation data to reconstruct the dynamic histories of ecological and human communities, their fire regimes, and the vulnerability of these communities to climate changes. Presenters in this symposium articulate the research strategies and results of interdisciplinary investigations that underpin collaborative efforts to understand the long-term relationships between dense human settlements, land-use, climate change, and landscape fire dynamics to build a science and traditional knowledge-based framework for improved management of fire-prone Southwestern forests.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-12 of 12)

  • Documents (12)

  • ArcBurn: Measuring Fire Vulnerability in Southwestern Landscapes (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Anastasia Steffen. Rachel Loehman.

    How can the archaeological record be used as a chronicle of prehistoric forest fires? How do cultural resource managers today evaluate the potential impacts of wildland fires? The "ArcBurn" project, funded by the Joint Fire Science Program, is a collaboration among archaeologists, fire scientists, forest ecologists, and fire managers. This project was created to develop hard data on fire effects to ensure that the best science is effectively and appropriately used to guide management plans, and...

  • Fire Adds Richness to the Land: Ethnographic Research for the FHiRE Project (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only T. J. Ferguson. John Welch. Benrita Burnette. Stewart Koyiyumptewa.

    One component of the multidisciplinary FHiRE project included ethnographic research with 50 members of four tribes. Specific historical and traditional information about fire ecology related to the occupation of Hemish ancestral sites in the Jemez Mountains was collected at the Pueblo of Jemez. More generalizing information about the role of fire in Southwestern lifeways was collected with research participants at the Hopi Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, and White Mountain Apache Tribe. Our ethnographic...

  • Fire, Forests, Climate and People in the Jemez Mountains: A 500-Year, Landscape-Scale Perspective (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Thomas Swetnam. Joshua Farella.

    Forests and human communities are now extremely vulnerable to large, severe wildfires during droughts as a consequence of fire exclusion and other land use practices. The extent to which this vulnerability is influenced by extreme climate events and past land-uses remains unclear. Combined studies of climate, fire and human histories from the same landscape can help reveal the relative roles of people and climate variations in driving spatial patterns and temporal trends of wildfires. The Jemez...

  • Forests, Fires and People: Reconstructing Human-Natural Interactions on the Jemez Plateau, New Mexico With Tree Rings (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Joshua Farella. Thomas Swetnam. Mathew Liebmann.

    The Jemez Plateau of northern New Mexico contains a rich archaeological and tree-ring record characterizing interactions between humans, forests, climate and fire over the past 500 years. Ponderosa pine and pinyon-juniper woodlands on the Plateau were occupied by roughly 6,000 people within an area of about 30,000 hectares during the early 1600’s. Using dendrochronology we reconstructed detailed fire and forest histories directly on and surrounding several large, ancestral Jemez village sites...

  • Jemez Oral Traditions and Ancestral Landscpaes (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Barry Price Steinbrecher. Paul Tosa.

    Ethnographic research with cultural advisors and research partners from the Pueblo of Jemez on fire ecology, use of plant resources, and landscape within the Jemez Mountains in northern New Mexico reveals significant ongoing connections to Jemez ancestral places. The ancestral places within the Jemez Province that archaeologists define primarily through the distribution of Jemez Black-on-white ceramics, which dates between approximately A.D. 1250 to A.D.1750, reflect an intensively occupied...

  • Luminescence Dating of Surface Ceramics from Naturally Burned Archaeological Contexts (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Dana Drake Rosenstein. Christopher I. Roos.

    Luminescence dating of surface ceramics at archaeological sites is problematic for many reasons, including estimation of environmental dose rate, likelihood that an artifact is in situ and weathering. Until now, there has not been systematic research on the effect of natural fires on luminescence dating of pottery. This is an important consideration, because while the temperature of a typical fire is well above the threshold for resetting the luminescence signal in a sherd, the length of time...

  • Modeling ecological resilience and human-environment interactions in engineered landscapes of the prehistoric American southwest (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Rachel Loehman. Christopher Roos. Thomas Swetnam.

    The prehistoric human footprint in the American southwest is extensive and includes large and small structures, agricultural features, and other signatures of long and variably intensive landscape use. The southwest Jemez Mountains, focus of the current study, have been occupied continuously for the past 2,000 years, and by circa 1300 CE were densely settled in a network of large village sites and fieldhouses. Evidence from tree-rings and fire scars suggests that prior to ca. 1900 Jemez...

  • Multi-Millennial Fire Histories from Sedimentary Archives: Human and Climate Impacts (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Christopher Roos. Michael Aiuvalasit. Jenna Battillo. Chris Kiahtipes. Thomas Swetnam.

    Sedimentary archives offer the opportunity to build millennial length fire history reconstructions with which to evaluate hypotheses of anthropogenic and climatic impacts on fire prone forests. Particularly when calibrated with centennial length fire history records from tree-rings, sedimentary paleofire proxies can be used to build spatially explicit records of fire regime changes. As part of the Jemez Fire & Humans in Resilient Ecosystems Project, this paper presents the results of multiple,...

  • Through fire and water: the vulnerability and resilience of highland Ancestral Puebloan communities to prehistoric droughts in the Jemez Mountains, New Mexico (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Michael Aiuvalasit.

    Establishing causality between climate change and cultural history is often fraught by mismatched temporal scales and weak archaeological correlates. In the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico the abandonment of large villages on the Pajarito Plateau in the early 16th century has largely been attributed to drought, however the persistence of large communities on the adjacent Jemez Plateau, which shares similar climate histories, ecological settings, and prehistoric adaptations, has not been...

  • Time and Technology at Kwastiyukwa, a Large Classic-Period Pueblo in the Jemez Mountains, New Mexico (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jonathan Van Hoose. Connie Constan.

    This paper is part of an ongoing study associated with the FHiRE Project, which examines the interaction of fire, landscapes, and people in prehistory in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico. Before we can examine higher-level questions of demography and interaction through time, it is necessary to firmly establish time with as much precision as possible. This paper represents the first step toward building and anchoring a detailed chronological framework for occupation at Kwastiyukwa, a large...

  • Toward a Sovereignty-Driven Paradigm for Transdisciplinary Research on Social-Ecological Systems (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only John Welch. Paul Tosa. Francis Vigil. Rachael Loehman.

    In addition to substantive findings about changing relations between Jemez communities and forest ecologies, our multidisciplinary project is suggesting some promising strategies for enhancing research engagements with American Indian tribes. In spite of due diligence in consulting with Jemez Pueblo leaders in the course of project planning and in engaging Jemez people and interests in project processes, we are concerned that the project’s scientific contributions outweigh its beneficial effects...

  • Using Surface Archaeology to Estimate Ancestral Jemez Population Dynamics, AD 1300-1700 (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Adam Stack. Sarah Martini. Matt Liebmann.

    Determining the population of ancestral Pueblo villages has beguiled inquisitive observers from the 16th century down to the present day. Spanish explorers and colonial settlers floated wildly variable population estimates upon their initial visits to Pueblo villages. Today archaeologists are no different, offering demographic estimates that often differ by orders of magnitude. This "population problem" plagues the Jemez region of northern New Mexico in particular. In this paper, we present the...