PreColumbian Landscape Modification

This work demonstrates animportant research tool.  I would like tosee it extended to a number of geographically separated water sheds and to seethe work extended back several thousands of years in time.

We should be able to establishthe onset of corn culture and perhaps even determine the size of localpopulations with this approach provided we collect enough data to get excellentresolution.

There are plenty of questionsthat need to be answered with something more than a slew of undiscovered andeven undiscoverable habitation sites. Perhaps high schools could be recruited into the sampling program.

Agriculture disturbs naturalsedimentation rates.  Let us take fulladvantage of this information.

Native Americans Modified American Landscape Years Prior To The ArrivalOf Europeans

by Staff Writers

Waco TX(SPX) Mar 23, 2011

A new study by Baylor University geologyresearchers shows that Native Americans' land use nearly a century ago produceda widespread impact on the eastern North American landscape and floodplaindevelopment several hundred years prior to the arrival of major Europeansettlements.

The study appears on-line in the journal Geology.

Researchers attribute early colonial land-use practices, such asdeforestation, plowing and damming with influencing present-day hydrologicalsystems across eastern North America. Previousstudies suggest that Native Americans' land use in eastern North America initially caused the change in hydrological systems,however, little direct evidence has been provided until now.

The Baylor study found that pre-European so-called "natural"floodplains have a history of prehistoric indigenous land use, and thuscolonial-era Europeans were not the first people to have an impact on thehydrologic systems of eastern North America.

The study also found that prehistoric small-scale agriculturalsocieties caused widespread ecological change and increased sedimentation inhydrologic systems during the Medieval Climate Anomaly-Little Ice Age, whichoccurred about 700 to 1,000 years ago.
"These are two very important findings," said GaryStinchcomb, a Baylor doctoral candidate who conducted the study. "Thefindings conclusively demonstrate that Native Americans in eastern North America impacted their environment well before thearrival of Europeans. Through their agricultural practices, Native Americansincreased soil erosion and sediment yields to the Delaware River basin."

The Baylor researchers found that prehistoric people decreasedforest cover to reorient their settlements and intensify corn production. Theyalso contributed to increased sedimentation in valley bottoms about 700 to1,000 years ago, much earlier than previously thought.

The findings suggest that prehistoric land use was the initial cause ofincreased sedimentation in the valley bottoms, and sedimentation was lateramplified by wetter and stormier conditions.

To conduct the study, the Baylor researchers took samples along the Delaware River Valley. Landforms were mapped based onrelative elevations to Delaware River baseflow and archaeological excavationsassessed the presence of human habitation.

The Baylor researchers then used a site-specific geoarchaeologicalapproach and a regional synthesis of previous research to test the hypothesisthat the indigenous population had a widespread impact on terrestrialsedimentation in eastern North America.

"This study provides some of the most significant evidence yetthat Native Americans impacted the land to a much greater degree thanpreviously thought," said Dr. Steve Driese, professor and chair ofBaylor's department of geology,College of Arts and Sciences, who co-authored the study. "It confirms thatNative American populations had widespread effects on sedimentation."

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