Fuel Treatment Guidelines to Reduce Wildfire Damages to Ceramic Artifacts in the American Southwest


Artifact assemblages in the American southwest are currently subjected to periodic wildfires and prescribed burns, and have been exposed to fires in the past. Ceramics are a key constituent of these assemblages, leading to questions regarding effects of post-depositional heat and flame exposure on pottery. Alterations of ceramic pattern, form, and chemistry have been observed following wildfires, and such changes are significant because intact ceramics provide temporal context and other social information. Over the past 150 years, southwestern wildfires have shifted away from the historical high-frequency, low-severity regime; thus, cultural resources can be exposed to fires that are potentially more damaging than have occurred in the past. The wide range of fire environments and the duration and intensity of heating that result in damages to ceramic artifacts has not previously been systematically assessed. We report on results from laboratory tests conducted as part of the Joint Fire Science Program-funded ArcBurn project. Our results demonstrate that the type of fire environment and sustained dose determine patterns of alteration. Results can be used to identify fire environments that cause loss of information from artifact assemblages, and to develop management treatments and procedures to guide archaeological preservation in fire-prone landscapes.

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Fuel Treatment Guidelines to Reduce Wildfire Damages to Ceramic Artifacts in the American Southwest. Rebekah Kneifel, Rachel Loehman, Connie Constan, Jim Reardon. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397783)

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Spatial Coverage

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