Ancient earth ovens and their environment: a Holocene history of climate, vegetation, and fire in Upper Hat Creek Valley, British Columbia, Canada

Date

2013-01-10

Authors

Brintnell, Miranda

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Abstract

Paleoecological analyses of an alkaline fen in the southern Interior Plateau of British Columbia, Canada were undertaken in association with ancient earth ovens. Local and regional vegetation and natural disturbance regimes were reconstructed using pollen, plant macrofossils and macroscopic charcoal. At White Rock Springs, Artemisia-Poaceae steppe occurred in the early Holocene and the inferred climate from this period was warmer and drier than present. Increasing moisture at 6000 14C yr BP fostered development of open Pinus ponderosa forests surrounding the fen, with Pinus contorta var. latifolia expanding at higher elevations. A slope-wash event likely resulting from root processing activities occurred in the late Holocene that resulted in 13% Asteraceae Tubuliflorae pollen at 2200 ± 80 14C yr BP. Macroscopic charcoal concentrations increased following this disturbance. Shortly after this time a modern open mixed conifer forest with Pseudotsuga menziesii was likely established. A second major ecological disturbance perhaps occurred within the last 200 years as indicated by fluctuating pollen values of P. ponderosa, Poaceae, Asteraceae Liguliflorae and wetland species. The fen’s vegetation history is consistent with regional records, but rapid changes during the late Holocene apparently occurred in response to disturbances. These disturbances are most likely linked to human root food harvesting and earth oven use, and later to ranching. Differentiation of P. ponderosa and P. contorta pollen types reveals intervals of local forest change that were not detected in previous studies. This study is part of a larger research project at Upper Hat Creek Valley including lithics, phytoliths, and patterns of earth oven structure.

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Keywords

Palynology, Paleoecology, Root roasting subsistence technology, Charcoal, Pollen, Ponderosa Pine, Interior Douglas-fir, Holocene

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