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In 1954, archaeologists James Allen Lancaster and Don Watson and dendrochronologist Edmund Schulman asserted that a small grove of Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii [Mirbel] Franco var. glauca [Beissener] Franco) trees in Navajo Canyon on the west side of Chapin Mesa in Mesa Verde National Park contained evidence of stone-axe-cut tree limbs. In 1965, archaeologists Robert Nichols and David Smith published an article entitled “Evidence of Prehistoric Cultivation of Douglas-Fir Trees at Mesa Verde,” in which they supported the Lancaster/Watson/Schulman assertion with tree-ring dates from suspected stone-axe-cut limbs. If correct, Nichols and Smith (1965) document the only trees in the entire U.S. Southwest that contain ancient stone-axe-cut stubs and evidence of precolumbian forest management. Rather than accept their interpretations at face value, we attempt to replicate their dates through the (re)analysis of archived and recently collected tree-ring samples, and through a controlled analysis and comparison of archived and published records. We could not confirm their results, and we have no option but to reject their claim that Schulman Grove contains evidence of precolumbian tree manipulation by Ancestral Puebloan inhabitants of Mesa Verde.
Over 300 wood fossils were collected from the Ziegler Reservoir fossil site near Snowmass Village in central Colorado, USA. Wood fossils range from fragments of stems and branches only a few centimeters in diameter and length to whole logs >50 cm diameter and >10 m length. Many of the fossils were collected from a “beach” horizon, where they appear to have been washed up on the side of the interglacial lake and buried. The wood is mainly fir (Abies sp.) or Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), with some spruce (Picea sp.), pine (Pinus sp.), and at least one other unidentified conifer species. Douglas-fir and species of fir, spruce, and pine are common in the area today. Dendrochronological analyses compared annual growth rings in fossil wood to similar data from modern trees. Results suggest that fossil trees from the beach horizon grew under similar environmental conditions and annual climate variability as today. Three Douglas-firs and several fir logs also appear to have been alive at the same time based on crossdating of ring widths and other ring characteristics. These trees may have died at the same time, suggesting a stand mortality event in the surrounding forest that resulted in numerous logs being buried synchronously in the beach horizon.
In North America, terrestrial records of biodiversity and climate change that span Marine Oxygen Isotope Stage (MIS) 5 are rare. Where found, they provide insight into how the coupling of the ocean–atmosphere system is manifested in biotic and environmental records and how the biosphere responds to climate change. In 2010–2011, construction at Ziegler Reservoir near Snowmass Village, Colorado (USA) revealed a nearly continuous, lacustrine/wetland sedimentary sequence that preserved evidence of past plant communities between ~140 and 55 ka, including all of MIS 5. At an elevation of 2705 m, the Ziegler Reservoir fossil site also contained thousands of well-preserved bones of late Pleistocene megafauna, including mastodons, mammoths, ground sloths, horses, camels, deer, bison, black bear, coyotes, and bighorn sheep. In addition, the site contained more than 26,000 bones from at least 30 species of small animals including salamanders, otters, muskrats, minks, rabbits, beavers, frogs, lizards, snakes, fish, and birds. The combination of macro- and micro-vertebrates, invertebrates, terrestrial and aquatic plant macrofossils, a detailed pollen record, and a robust, directly dated stratigraphic framework shows that high-elevation ecosystems in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado are climatically sensitive and varied dramatically throughout MIS 5.
During an archaeological career that spanned four decades, John Beach Rinaldo (1912-1999) made substantive contributions to the delineation and definition of the Mogollon Culture, the culture history of west-central New Mexico and east-central Arizona, and the identification of material relationships between precolumbian cultures and modern-day Zuni. For a variety of reasons, Rinaldo is overshadowed by his Field Museum collaborator Paul Sidney Martin. As a result, historians of archaeology have failed to critically evaluate Rinaldo's career and contributions. This paper offers a controlled analysis and comparison of data in unpublished archives, artifact collections at the Field Museum, and the published record to illuminate previously unrecognized but important aspects of Rinaldo's many contributions to archaeological knowledge, method, and theory.
Paul Sidney Martin identified two “watershed” moments in his career: (1) his adoption of the tenets of the New Archaeology and (2) the changes he made in his approach to pedagogy at the Vernon field school. We explore the relationship between these two watershed moments using Martin’s archival record. We find that, rather than being watershed moments, these changes have deeper roots in the trajectory of Martin’s work and career and moreover are clearly linked to broader historical occurrences, such as World War II, the G.I. Bill, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the establishment of the National Science Foundation. Furthermore, we find that the New Archaeology’s emphasis on egalitarian science—the metaphor of “archaeology as commune”—serves as a link among its theoretical innovations, methodology, and pedagogy.
The interpretation of noncutting tree-ring dates from archaeological sites often proves problematic, and many sites in the Southwest may be more securely dated if cutting dates can be reliably estimated. Analysis of 54 ponderosa pine and 46 Douglas fir specimens reveals that the relationship between heartwood and sapwood in these species is sufficiently structured that regression analysis can be used to estimate the number of sapwood rings, and by extension the tree's cutting date, on the basis of the number of heartwood rings present on wood specimens. The efficacy of this estimation technique is evaluated on samples from localized and well-dated proveniences at Walpi Pueblo, as well as in light of the aggregate date distribution curve for that site. Results suggest that uncritical acceptance of estimated cutting dates is ill advised, but that when cutting-date estimates (and their associated confidence intervals) are considered in light of contextualizing architectural and archaeological data, they may suggest alternative room construction and repair hypotheses. When considered as part of the aggregate date distribution for a site, estimated cutting dates may identify and augment date concentrations, thereby helping secure the chronometric placement of prehistoric sites in the Southwest.
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