Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Sociology and Anthropology

Committee Chair(s)

Judson Finley


Judson Finley


R. Justin DeRose


Anna Cohen


While documented in ethnography and traditional ecological knowledge, Indigenous burning practices are rarely recognized in the archaeological record of the Great Basin and Colorado Plateau. I analyzed charcoal from an arroyo wall to understand the relationship between Indigenous farmers and fire at the Cub Creek archaeological site (AD 300-1300) in Dinosaur National Monument. The size, shape, and amount of charcoal in each sediment layer indicates the fuel types (woody or grassy) and relative size and/or intensity of fires. I compared my data to a precipitation reconstruction for the area to evaluate the influence of climate on fire activity. The results indicated that fires were rare and small for over 1,000 years, despite the occurrence of drought conditions, while Indigenous peoples lived on and managed the land. Fire activity did increase around the introduction of maize agriculture about AD 300. After Indigenous people left the Cub Creek area around AD 1300, large fires returned to the landscape, particularly during periods of drought. This study demonstrates that fire histories can be constructed in settings without good fire scar datasets and within complex stratigraphic settings such as ancient arroyos. It also contributes to the archaeological evidence for Indigenous fire management practices in the American Southwest, which can help us understand how to live with fire in the face of an increasingly extreme climate