ArcBurn: Measuring Fire Vulnerability in Southwestern Landscapes

Author(s): Anastasia Steffen; Rachel Loehman

Year: 2015


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 that these plans are defensible and reasonable under dynamic environmental conditions. We are using laboratory and field experimentation to quantify the fire dose that causes unwanted damage to three kinds of artifacts: pottery, obsidian, and architectural stones. We also measure indirect fire effects by assessing post-fire erosion. The context for this work is the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico, a fire-prone landscape where wildfires in the last three decades have dramatically increased in size and severity, resulting in profound impacts to this rich and previously stable archaeological record. We review the goals for this project, provide our preliminary results, and discuss the increasing relevance of archaeological perspectives in comprehending and responding to climate change.

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Cite this Record

ArcBurn: Measuring Fire Vulnerability in Southwestern Landscapes. Anastasia Steffen, Rachel Loehman. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395236)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -115.532; min lat: 30.676 ; max long: -102.349; max lat: 42.033 ;