Mitigating Environmental Stress: Settlement Ecology in Prehistoric Frontier Community, the Wupatki Region of Northern Arizona

EPA Grant Number: U915185
Title: Mitigating Environmental Stress: Settlement Ecology in Prehistoric Frontier Community, the Wupatki Region of Northern Arizona
Investigators: Newcombe, Joanne M.
Institution: University of Arizona
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: August 1, 1997 through December 31, 2000
Project Amount: $102,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (1997) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Biology/Life Sciences , Fellowship - Anthropology


The objective of this research project is to construct a model of long-term land use, spanning 600 years of Flagstaff prehistory to examine four major research questions:

1. What are persistent places, and how are they characterized?

2. How are communities connected to these areas?

3. What is the importance of persistent places to community survival?

4. Does changing use of persistent places mirror social organizational changes in communities?

Recently, in archaeological studies of the environment, a landscape approach has emerged as an alternative to functional ecological studies. The utility of the landscape concept lies in its ability to unite both the physical, social, and temporal aspects of human-environmental interaction. Although other researchers in the Southwest have observed human-environmental interaction, the combination of landscape theory and high-quality archaeological and environmental data from the Flagstaff area of northern Arizona, coupled with geographic information systems (GIS) technology, provides a new way of testing previous theories of land use. The study of landscape is a synthetic process that integrates ecological, geological, and cultural data to understand the changing social and political organization of communities through time. Persistent places (areas of long-term land use) provide a temporal continuity in the landscape that is useful for modeling changes in prehistoric landscape and society.


This project combines GIS technology and analyses with underutilized data on small scatters, site data, environmental, and climatic data, providing an example of how a landscape approach in archaeology can be operationalized. Persistent places and their range of variation will be identified by combining traditional cluster analyses of material remains through time with GIS analyses of site and artifact data. To construct a model of long-term land use, information about persistent places will be combined with data from ethnographic, archival, and field sources. In addition, the impact of environmental events on land-use strategies will be examined by mapping droughts, floods, killing frosts, and the volcanic eruption of Sunset Crater onto an environmental baseline of temperature and precipitation derived from tree-ring data.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, anthropology, Southwest, Arizona, social science, ecology, land use, geographic information systems, GIS, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Geographic Area, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, State, Monitoring/Modeling, Ecological Risk Assessment, Ecology and Ecosystems, Social Science, data modeling, anthropogenic stress, model-based analysis, prehistoric frontier community, anthropology, land use model, Wupatki Region, modeling, Arizona (AZ), community tracking, ecological risk, environmental stress, community survival

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1998
  • 1999
  • 2000
  • Final