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Wildfires, Forests, and the Archaeological Record: Investigating Complex and Persistent Human-Landscape Legacies

Author(s): Anastasia Steffen ; Rachel Loehman

Year: 2017

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Recent wildland fires of western North America are occurring in some landscapes at intensities, severities, and extents that are far outside the historical record. These fires and their ecological and social consequences are highly-reported, and there is emerging awareness of the potential for large and severe wildfires to alter or destroy cultural legacies in fire-prone landscapes. Contemporary anthropogenic land use and management have contributed to altered wildfire regimes, but this can be better understood in the context of complex and persistent human-landscape legacies. The archaeological record is a potent source of information on how past occupations influenced ecosystem functioning, information that is needed for successful adaptation planning and climate change response in the coming decades. We discuss several projects that are on-going in the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico, each designed to examine wildfire dynamics and human-landscape interactions across spatial and temporal scales. We consider the conceptual and practical tools needed to examine long-term human-ecosystem dynamics within seemingly natural areas; how fire effects can serve as secondary "artifacts" to be used to examine past fires; and how cultural and natural resources managers and researchers can work together to anticipate and offset the potential damage of wildfires.

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Wildfires, Forests, and the Archaeological Record: Investigating Complex and Persistent Human-Landscape Legacies. Anastasia Steffen, Rachel Loehman. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431030)


Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14892

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America