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Reconstruction of woodland vegetation and firewood exploitation in Nine Mile Canyon, Utah, based on charcoal and pollen analysis

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Anthracological (charcoal) and pollen analysis conducted on samples from multiple sites in Nine Mile Canyon, Utah, western United States of America, were used to reconstruct the woodlands of this region and interpret firewood exploitation during the Formative period (∼ AD 200–1300). The pollen record identifies constituents of the paleoenvironment of this region, reflecting species that grew in the vicinity of the site and in the broader area. Wood charcoal reflects various trees and shrubs that were used as fuel or for construction by the prehistoric occupants settled in Nine Mile Canyon. Pollen results elucidate a portion of the spectrum of wood taxa, which varies in different parts of the canyon, depending on elevation and the canyon's topography. While micro-charcoal analysis has a long and rich tradition in association with pollen analysis, anthracological analysis is different in that it focuses on macroscopic pieces of archaeological charcoal. Here, anthracology, using SEM imagery, helps define local woody taxa by identifying macroscopic pieces of archaeological charcoal. These two analytical tools build a complementary record of local woodland vegetation through aerial pollen transport and fuel wood selection. While the pollen record is affected by aerial transport, the anthracological assemblages, in most cases, reflect species growing in the vicinity of the prehistoric settlements, but can be affected by natural transport within the drainage. Recovery of Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) charcoal from the lower portions of the canyon, containing steep walls and natural conditions not favorable for Douglas-fir growth, indicates presence of drift-wood or debris-flow deposits.
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Reconstruction of woodland vegetation and rewood exploitation in
Nine Mile Canyon, Utah, based on charcoal and pollen analysis
Peter Kov
a
cik
*
, Linda Scott Cummings
PaleoResearch Institute, 2675 Youngeld Street, Golden, CO, 80401, USA
article info
Article history:
Received 13 July 2016
Received in revised form
10 May 2017
Accepted 21 June 2017
Available online 5 July 2017
Keywords:
Charcoal analysis
Pollen analysis
Spatial analysis
Woodland vegetation reconstruction
Nine Mile Canyon
Utah
abstract
Anthracological (charcoal) and pollen analysis conducted on samples from multiple sites in Nine Mile
Canyon, Utah, western United States of America, were used to reconstruct the woodlands of this region
and interpret rewood exploitation during the Formative period (~ AD 200e1300). The pollen record
identies constituents of the paleoenvironment of this region, reecting species that grew in the vicinity
of the site and in the broader area. Wood charcoal reects various trees and shrubs that were used as fuel
or for construction by the prehistoric occupants settled in Nine Mile Canyon. Pollen results elucidate a
portion of the spectrum of wood taxa, which varies in different parts of the canyon, depending on
elevation and the canyon's topography. While micro-charcoal analysis has a long and rich tradition in
association with pollen analysis, anthracological analysis is different in that it focuses on macroscopic
pieces of archaeological charcoal. Here, anthracology, using SEM imagery, helps dene local woody taxa
by identifying macroscopic pieces of archaeological charcoal. These two analytical tools build a com-
plementary record of local woodland vegetation through aerial pollen transport and fuel wood selection.
While the pollen record is affected by aerial transport, the anthracological assemblages, in most cases,
reect species growing in the vicinity of the prehistoric settlements, but can be affected by natural
transport within the drainage. Recovery of Douglas-r(Pseudotsuga menziesii) charcoal from the lower
portions of the canyon, containing steep walls and natural conditions not favorable for Douglas-r
growth, indicates presence of drift-wood or debris-ow deposits.
©2017 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
Although wood charcoal is one of the most common, and
many times the only, remains recovered from archaeological sites
in the western United States, its interpretative value often has
been limited to AMS radiocarbon analysis. Archaeobotanical
research usually focuses on identication and analysis of food
related plants (corn, cucurbits, beans, etc.) and utilization of
seeds, fruits, and nuts from wild plants. Paleoenvironmental and
paleoclimatic reconstructions, as well as re history (Whitlock
and Larsen, 2001) are conducted using palynology and dendro-
chronology (Baillie, 1982), and lately also phytolith analysis
(Blinnikov, 2005). Systematic anthracological studies (Asouti,
2003, 2013; Asouti and Austin, 2005; Asouti et al., 2015; Elliott,
2012; Salavert and Dufraisse, 2014; Scheel-Ybert, 2001; Wright
et al., 2015, 2017) provide proof that wood charcoal analysis is a
powerful tool for prehistoric vegetation reconstruction and un-
derstanding woodland modication and change, as well as
ancient fuel management. Studies that combine anthracological
results with pollen, phytolith, carpological, and dendrochrono-
logical analysis provide even better understanding of the rela-
tionship between prehistoric societies and their environment. In
locations where long stratigraphic lake sediment and/or bog re-
cords are available macro-charcoal assemblages from archaeo-
logical sites may be compared to relevant regional palynological
records obtained from radiocarbon-dated cores (Emery-Barbier
and Thi
ebault, 2005; N
afr
adi et al., 2012; Nelle et al., 2010;
Nocus et al., 2011; Novak et al., 2011).
This paper aims to present the anthracological investigation of
prehistoric features excavated along Nine Mile Creek in Nine Mile
Canyon, east-central Utah as an environmental proxy. Dense
occupation of the canyon during the Formative period (~AD
200e1300) allows spatial examination of woodland composition in
relation to topographical settings of the canyon. Conjunction of
*Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: peterkovacik@hotmail.com,peter@paleoresearch.com
(P. Kov
a
cik), linda@paleoresearch.com (L. Scott Cummings).
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Quaternary International
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/quaint
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2017.06.052
1040-6182/©2017 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA. All rights reserved.
Quaternary International 463 (2018) 312e326
these data with pollen analysis provides an ideal tool for micro-
regional woodland reconstruction and ancient rewood manage-
ment on the West Tavaputs Plateau.
2. Regional setting
2.1. Geographic and environmental setting
Situated at the northern edge of the West Tavaputs Plateau
(~40
N longitude), at the border of Carbon and Duchesne
Counties in east-central Utah, Nine Mile Canyon is one of the
most signicant areas associated with the Fremont archaeological
complex in the northern portion of the Colorado Plateau (Fig. 1).
The west-east trending canyon, with the perennial Nine Mile
Creek, drains into Green River in Desolation Canyon. Elevation of
the canyon bottom ranges from approximately 2300 m asl
(7600 ft) in the west to 1400 m asl (4600 ft) at the conuence of
Nine Mile Creek with Green River in the east. Walls of the canyon
often rise 150e300 m (~500e1000 ft) above the canyon oor,
while plateau peaks reach an altitude of approximately 3100 m
asl (10200 ft asl) (Bruin Point). High plateaus and rugged terrain
with deep canyons dominate the Tavaputs Plateau. In combina-
tion with a semi-arid mid-continental climate with limited, but
year-round precipitation (Bureau of Land Management, 2011;
Knight et al., 2010:108), the Tavaputs Plateau supports various
vegetation types. Pinyon-juniper (Pinus edulis-Juniperus spp., but
mostly J. osteosperma) woodlands and shrublands covering dry
and hot south- and east-facing canyon slopes (Fig. 2:A) represent
important plant communities for prehistoric people of this region
(Lanner, 1975:1, 1981, 1983). Edible pinyon nuts and juniper
berries were collected for food and medicinal purposes, while
wood was used for construction and fuel. Various grasses (Poa-
ceae), yucca (Yucca spp.), pricklypear cactus (Opuntia spp.),
jointr(Ephedra spp.), serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.), and
mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus spp.) are mixed within the
pinyon-juniper ecosystem. Bottoms of the slopes and dry plains
support sagebrush-greasewood (Artemisia spp.-Sarcobatus ver-
miculatus)shrublands(Fig. 2:B) (Mozingo, 1987), with rabbit-
brush (Chrysothamnus spp.), snakeweed (Gutierrezia spp.),
saltbush (Atriplex spp.), and Indian ricegrass (Achnatherum spp.).
Shrubby willows (Salix spp.), cottonwoods (Populus spp.), maples
(Acer spp.), and cattails (Typha spp.) grow along the creek
(Fig. 2:C). Higher elevations and northern exposures support
Douglas-r(Pseudotsuga menziesii)stands(Fig. 2:D), while high
altitude montane conifer forests consist of r(Abies spp.) and
spruce (Picea spp.). Today, the canyon bottom is heavily affected
by cattle ranching and natural gas wells, and a small agricultural
presence is noted.
2.2. Cultural context
The rst archaeological explorations of Nine Mile Canyon
quickly followed its discovery by Euroamericans in the second half
of the nineteenth century and throughout the twentieth century
(Gillin, 1938, 1955; Marwitt, 1986; Morss, 2009; Patterson, 2016;
Spangler, 2000a:25e38; 2000b, 2013; Spangler and Spangler,
2010). Fremont villages with pithouses on the canyons bottoms,
cliff dwellings and granaries (Fig. 3:A), circular structures (Fig. 3:B)
on rock outcrops and mesas, as well as countless rock art panels
(Fig. 3:C) evidence active life during the Formative Period associ-
ated with spread of farming to the Tavaputs Plateau (Patterson and
Flanigan, 2010; Patterson, 2015, 2016; Spangler, 2013:165). Agri-
cultural elds in the canyon oodplains and alluvial fans were used
to grow maize (Zea mays) and possibly other cultigens including
beans (Phaseolus spp.) and cucurbits (Cucurbitaceae). Previously,
major Fremont occupation of the canyon was presumed around AD
1000 (Spangler, 2013:165). Based on new radiocarbon evidence,
Patterson (2015, 2016) suggests a continuous occupation of Nine
Mile Canyon from at least AD 500 to AD 1250, extending to the
Early and Middle Formative periods. Recovery of corn kernels/
Fig. 1. Map of southwestern United States of America, indicating Nine Mile Canyon (short blue line) on Tavaputs Plateau (approximate boundaries indicated with black line) within
the Colorado Plateau (approximate boundaries indicated with white line) (compiled by P. Kov
a
cik). (For interpretation of the references to colour in this gure legend, the reader is
referred to the web version of this article.)
P. Kov
a
cik, L. Scott Cummings / Quaternary International 463 (2018) 312e326 313
cupules and corn pollen (Kov
a
cik et al., 2014; Puseman and Scott
Cummings, 2013) from Early and Middle Formative features sug-
gests corn utilization in the canyon prior to AD 950.
The most recent archaeological investigation in the Nine Mile
Canyon is associated with discovery of natural gas deposits on the
plateau, and subsequent infrastructure development in the canyon
in the 2000s. Several sites, buried under the canyon's alluvial de-
posits, were excavated during the pipeline and road reconstruction
in 2012e2013 by Montgomery Archaeological Consultants under
the directorship of Jody Patterson. The sites varied from a single
feature to complex multifunctional settlements. Hearths, roasting
pits, storage pits, and pithouses from 27 sites were sampled for
macrooral and pollen analysis to investigate the prehistoric
environment and plant use by canyon's prehistoric occupants. Re-
covery of charred Zea mays cobs, cupules, kernels, and pollen
indicate intensive corn agriculture. In addition, wild plant types,
including goosefoot (Chenopodium), sagebrush (Artemisia), care-
lessweed (Cyclachaena xanthifolia), tansy mustard (Descurainia),
pepperweed (Lepidium), pigweed (Amaranthus), saltbush (Atriplex),
cattail (Typha), pine/twoneedle pinyon (Pinus/Pinus edulis), and
hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus) also were utilized (Kov
a
cik et al.,
2014; Puseman and Scott Cummings, 2013).
3. Material and methods
3.1. Sampling
Samples were collected from 67 features at 27 sites (Fig. 4) along
Nine Mile Creek in the upper and middle portions of Nine Mile
Canyon (approximately 37 km). The examined sites more or less
clustered into six zones, each unique in elevation range and canyon
wall steepness. Designated Zones I through VI, following west-east
canyon trending, decrease in elevation and increase in slope
degree.
In most cases, both macrooral (250e700 ml) and pollen (up to
50 ml) samples were collected from the same features ensuring
chronological compatibility of the data. Sampled features include
pit structures, storage pits, roasting pits, and hearths buried under
alluvial fans along the Nine Mile Creek. The majority of features/
sites are buried three to four, or up to six meters below the modern
ground surface (Patterson, 2016) as shown in Fig. 5.
Pollen grains, deposited during feature use and/or immedi-
ately after its abandonment, indicate species growing in the vi-
cinity of the site as well as in the broader region, identifying the
environmental potential of the study area during the occupation.
As the features were buried, their pollen records, which accu-
mulated during use and immediately post use, were sealed,
Fig. 2. Four major plant environments observed in Nine Mile Canyon include pinyon-juniper woodland (A), sagebrush-greasewood oodplain shrubland (B), riparian zone (C), and
montane forest with Douglas-r stands (D) (photo by P. Kov
a
cik).
P. Kov
a
cik, L. Scott Cummings / Quaternary International 463 (2018) 312e326314
providing accurate representation of use and local vegetation for
each occupational period. Frequent high-energy surface runoff
events in the canyon naturally sealed many of the prehistoric
features.
Charcoal is present in feature ll as a result of human activity,
the most common of which involved burning wood as fuel. In
accordance with the Principle of Least Effort,thecharcoal
assemblages directly reect species availability, as well as effort-
less acquisition of fuel wood (Shackleton and Prins, 1992). How-
ever, several studies (Dussol et al., 2016; Henry and Th
ery-Parisot,
2014; Marston, 2009; Picornell-Gelabert et al., 2011) suggest that
socio-economic strategies and human preference also have an
effect on the anthracological record, thus they must be considered.
3.2. Anthracological methods
Macrooral samples were oated using a modication of pro-
cedures outlined by Matthews (1979). Each sample was added to
approximately three gallons of water, then stirred until a strong
vortex formed. The oating material (light fraction) was poured
through a 250-
m
m mesh sieve. Additional water was added and the
process repeated until all oating material was removed from the
samples (a minimum of ve times). The material remaining in the
bottom (heavy fraction) was poured through a 0.5-mm mesh
screen. The oated portions and heavy fractions were allowed to
dry.
The light fractions were weighed, then passed through a series
of graduated screens (US Standard Sieves with 4-mm, 2-mm, 1-
mm, 0.5-mm, and 0.25-mm openings) to separate charcoal
debris and to initially sort the remains. Charcoal pieces larger than
2 mm, 1 mm, and 0.5 mm in diameter were separated from the
smallest sized particles, and the total charcoal was weighed. At
least 40 charcoal fragments were identied from each sample.
Although examining a minimum of 20 pieces of charcoal has been
set as a standard in the western United States (Minnis, 1978:9;
Minnis and Raymer, 1982:2), we prefer to examine and identify a
minimum of 40 pieces of charcoal, when they are present. Often
charcoal fragments larger than 2-mm are not abundant and
smaller pieces (1-mm and 0.5-mm) must be examined to meet
this minimum number of fragments. In cases where charcoal
fragments larger than 2 mm were absent or insufcient (less than
40 pieces), fragments smaller than 2 mm were examined, starting
with fragments larger than 1 mm. However, a few samples did not
yield even 40 identiable charcoal fragments, excluding uniden-
tied hardwood and conifer. Charcoal pieces in a representative
sample were broken to expose fresh transverse, radial, and
tangential sections, then examined under a binocular microscope
at a magnication of 70and under a Nikon Optiphot 66 micro-
scope at magnications of 320e800x. Weights of each charcoal
type within the representative sample were recorded. Charcoal
remains were identied by comparison with modern and
archaeological references curated at PaleoResearch Institute (PRI)
in Golden, Colorado (USA) and using identication manuals
(Carlquist, 2001; Hoadley, 1990; Minnis, 1987; Panshin and de
Zeeuw, 1980; Schweingruber et al., 2011, 2013). Images were ob-
tained using a PhenomWorld desktop SEM (scanning electron
microscope).
3.3. Palynological methods
Sediments present unique challenges for pollen preservation
and recovery. In general, the western United States has alkaline
sediments and limited rainfall, providing better pollen preservation
than sediments in areas that experience greater rainfall. A chemical
extraction technique based on otation is the standard preparation
technique used in this laboratory for recovering pollen grains from
sediments. This particular process was developed for extracting
pollen from soils where the preservation has been less than ideal
and the pollen density is lower than in peat. Hydrochloric acid
(10%) was used to remove calcium carbonates present in the sedi-
ment samples, after which, they were screened through 250-
m
m
mesh. Multiple water rinses until neutral employ Stoke's Law for
Fig. 3. Cliff dwellings and granaries (A), circular structures situated on the rock out-
crops (B), and abundant rock art panels (C) indicate presence of Fremont occupants in
Nine Mile Canyon (photo by P. Kov
a
cik).
P. Kov
a
cik, L. Scott Cummings / Quaternary International 463 (2018) 312e326 315
settling time. After settling the supernatant was poured off. A small
quantity of sodium hexametaphosphate was mixed into each
sample to suspend clay-sized particles prior lling the beakers with
water. Again, multiple rinses employing Stoke's Law and decanting
facilitated clay removal. Treatment with sodium hexametaphos-
phate was repeated, as necessary, to remove clay. This process was
repeated with ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA), which
removes clay, soluble organics, and iron. Finally, the samples were
freeze-dried under vacuum.
Once dry, the samples were mixed with sodium polytungstate
(SPT), at a density of 1.8 g/ml, and centrifuged to separate the
organic material including pollen and starch, which oats, from
the inorganic remains and silica, which do not oat. The super-
natant containing pollen and organic remains was decanted and
retained. The sodium polytungstate process was repeated to
recover all of the organics. Once the organics were recovered, the
accumulated supernatant was centrifuged at 1500 rpm for 10 min
to allow small-sized silica to be separated from the organics. This
supernatant was decanted into a 50-ml conical tube and diluted
with reverse osmosis deionized (RODI) water and centrifuged at
3000 rpm to concentrate the organic fraction in the bottom of the
tube. The pollen-rich organic fraction was rinsed, then all sam-
ples received a short, 25 min, treatment in hot hydrouoric acid
(49%) to remove remaining inorganic particles. The samples were
Fig. 4. Map of Nine Mile Canyon, Utah, indicating six zones and archaeological sites sampled for anthracological and pollen analysis (compiled by P. Kov
a
cik).
Fig. 5. Features/sites in Nine Mile Canyon are buried under several meters of alluvial fan deposits (black arrows indicate a buried hearth exposed in one of the arroyos) (photo by P.
Kov
a
cik).
P. Kov
a
cik, L. Scott Cummings / Quaternary International 463 (2018) 312e326316
acetylated (9 parts acetic anhydride and 1 part 95e95% sulfuric
acid) at an altitude of 1610 m (5280 ft) for 10 min to remove
extraneous organic matter. This process proceeds at a lower
temperature at this elevation, permitting longer exposure to the
acetolysis mixture. The samples were rinsed with RODI water to
neutral. A few drops of 5% potassium hydroxide (KOH) were
added to each sample, which was then stained lightly with
safranin.
A Nikon binocular light microscope was used to count pollen at
a magnication of 500. Pollen preservation in these samples was
good with few grains so badly damaged that they were not
identiable. All counts were obtained on a single microscope slide
per sample. Percents were calculated for each sample using total
pollen representing only the woody plants observed in each
sample (listed on the pollen diagram). An extensive comparative
reference housed at PaleoResearch Institute aided pollen identi-
cation to the family, genus, and species level, where possible. Low-
spine Asteraceae are dened as having the morphology of Am-
brosia,Franseria,orXanthium, while High-spine Asteraceae are all
other Asteraceae.
3.4. Quantication, multivariate statistics, and spatial analysis
Identied taxa in the anthracological data set were quantied
applying absolute count (c), percentage abundance (%), and ubiq-
uity (u). Quantication of the pollen grains from arboreal and
shrubby species was undertaken using percentage abundance. The
percentage pollen diagram for arboreal and shrubby species was
produced using Tilia 1.7.16. Total pollen concentrations were
calculated in Tilia using the quantity of sample processed in cubic
centimeters (cc), the quantity of exotics (spores) added to the
sample, the quantity of exotics counted, and the total pollen
counted and expressed as pollen per cc of sediment. When multiple
samples from one site were combined into a single entry for the
pollen diagram the total pollen concentrations for those samples
were averaged. Principal components analysis (PCA) was
conducted on the anthracological record to test separation between
various plant communities in the canyon.
4. Results
Out of 27 pollen types identied in the pollen records, only
pollen grains representing six arboreal and nine shrubby woody
taxa (Table 1), which have the potential to be recovered in the
anthracological assemblages, were used for pollen percentage
abundance and statistical analyses. Pollen from grasses, forbs, and
culturally important taxa were excluded from this study to elimi-
nate bias introduced by the presence of weedy and food taxa.
Approximately 97% of 2637 analyzed charcoal fragments were
identied to 15 different taxa (Table 1). Unidentied hardwood and
conifer fragments either were too small or too vitried for further
identication. These fragments within the anthracological record
were insignicant, thus were excluded from the fragment count
and ubiquity calculations after Asouti (2003) and Wright et al.
(2015, 2017).
4.1. Pollen dataset
Regional pollen records suggest that the vegetation around
1000 CAL yr. BP does not signicantly differ from the modern
conditions (Klimaszewski-Patterson and Mensing, 2016;
Louderback and Rhode, 2009; Louderback et al., 2015). The pol-
len record from 44 features at 25 sites is ranked by pollen taxon
dominance (Table 1). Amaranthaceae (goosefoot/amaranth family
eformerly termed Cheno-am), Pinus (pine), Sarcobatus vermic-
ulatus (greasewood), Artemisia (sagebrush), and Asteraceae (sun-
ower family) pollen are generally represented at most of the sites
in the study area. Ephedra (jointr), Juniperus (juniper), Abies (r),
Quercus (oak), Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas-r), Rosaceae (rose
family), Rhus (sumac), and Picea (spruce) each represent a taxon
with a less than 1% of total pollen grain count. Under or over
representation of some taxa is associated with individual species
Table 1
Major plant communities indicated in the pollen and anthracological (charcoal) record from Nine Mile Canyon sites. In the pollen record, Ephedra (jointr) pollen includes
Ephedra nevadensis-type (Nevada jointr) and Ephedra torreyana-type (Torrey's jointr), while Asteraceae (sunower family) pollen includes Low- and High-spine Asteraceae.
Fragment count (C), percentage abundance (%), and ubiquity (U) for pollen and anthracological (charcoal) assemblages from examined sites (compiledbyP.Kov
a
cik).
Plant Community Taxon Totals
Pollen Charcoal
Scientic Name Common Name C % U C % U
Montane Abies Fir 24 0.38 40.00
Picea Spruce 1 0.02 4.00
Pseudotsuga menziesii Douglas-r 6 0.09 20.00 336 13.20 55.60
Pinyon-juniper Juniperus Juniper 31 0.49 48.00 359 14.10 63.00
Pinus/Pinus edulis Pine/Twoneedle pinyon 1825 28.60 100.00 535 20.90 66.70
Quercus Oak 23 0.36 48.00
Ephedra Jointr 63 0.99 76.00 5 0.20 3.70
Rosaceae Rose family 5 0.08 16.00 2 0.10 7.41
Amelanchier Serviceberry 59 2.30 29.60
Cercocarpus Mountain mahogany 1 0.04 3.70
Rhus Sumac 4 0.06 4.00 2 0.10 3.70
Floodplain Asteraceae Sunower family 409 6.40 100.00 11 0.40 11.10
Artemisia Sagebrush 685 10.70 100.00 290 11.40 55.60
Chrysothamnus Rabbitbrush 23 0.90 18.50
Sarcobatus vermiculatus Greasewood 1337 20.90 92.00 715 28.00 74.10
Amaranthaceae Amaranth and Goosefoot family 1976 30.90 100.00
Atriplex Saltbush 14 0.50 18.50
Acer Maple 2 0.10 7.41
Populus/Salix Cottonwood/Willow 201 7.90 25.90
Totals 6389 100.00 2555 100.00
# of Taxa 13 15
# of Sites 25 27
P. Kov
a
cik, L. Scott Cummings / Quaternary International 463 (2018) 312e326 317
pollen productivity and pollen transportability. Various pollen
percentages of different species within one feature or site (Fig. 6)
do not necessarily indicate abundance or lack of certain taxa in the
vicinity of the site. Pines, for instance, produce large quantities of
pollen grains transported over long distances, while Juniperus,
Rosaceae, and Rhus produce less pollen with shorter transport
distances. Total pollen concentrations were in the multiple hun-
dreds to more than one hundred thousand pollen per cc of sedi-
ment, indicating good pollen preservation.
4.2. Anthracological dataset
The anthracological assemblage, with 2555 fragments identied
in 66 features from 27 sites (Table 1 and Fig. 7), was dominated by
Sarcobatus vermiculatus (greasewood) (Fig. 8) recovered at 20 sites.
It represents 28% of all identied charcoal. Pinus edulis (twoneedle
pinyon) is the second most abundant species recovered at 18 sites
throughout the canyon. This category also includes fragments only
identied as pine (Pinus), which most likely represent twoneedle
pinyon, a dominant species of this region. Although insignicant in
the pollen record, Juniperus (juniper) represents the third most
ubiquitous charcoal type identied in samples from 17 sites in Nine
Mile Canyon. Another conifer, Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas-r),
dominates the charcoal record from sites in the upper portion of
the canyon. Despite its absence or limited presence in assemblages
from the middle and lower portion of the Nine Mile Canyon study
area, Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas-r) was recovered at 15 sites
and totals 13.2 percent of all identied charcoal. Artemisia (sage-
brush) charcoal is the second most abundant (11.4%) hardwood
species, recovered at 15 sites, while Populus/Salix (cottonwood/
willow) charcoal fragments also were recovered in considerable
quantities (7.9%) at 7 sites. Eight sites yielded Amelanchier
(serviceberry) charcoal (2.3%) indicating the most common mem-
ber of rose family in this study. Other hardwood species (Fig. 9),
including Chrysothamnus (rabbitbrush), Atriplex (saltbush), Aster-
aceae (sunower family), Ephedra (jointr), Acer (maple), Rhus
(sumac), Rosaceae (rose family), and Cercocarpus (Mountain ma-
hogany) did not exceed 1% of the assemblage.
Fig. 6. Pollen diagram of percentage abundance for arboreal and shrubby woody taxa (excluding grasses, forbs, and culturally important taxa) identied in Nine Mile Canyon sites,
Utah (compiled by P. Kov
a
cik and Linda Scott Cummings).
P. Kov
a
cik, L. Scott Cummings / Quaternary International 463 (2018) 312e326318
5. Discussion
Various trees and shrubs with different ecological preferences,
noted in the pollen and charcoal records, reect the landscape
diversity of Nine Mile Canyon. Identied taxa were grouped into
four distinct groups (Table 1), based on the ecological divisions
known for the region (Albee et al., 1988; Bureau of Land
Management, 2011; Knight et al., 2010:108; Lanner, 1975, 1981,
1983; Mozingo, 1987; West, 1979) and observed in situ by the
authors. The major plant communities include montane conifer
forest, pinyon-juniper woodland, oodplain shrubland, and the
riparian zone. These ecological divisions were tested using Prin-
cipal Components Analysis (PCA) on charcoal percentages (Fig. 10).
Pseudotsuga menziesii (montane conifer forest) and taxa typical of
pinyon-juniper woodlands (Pinus/Pinus edulis,Juniperus, Rosaceae,
Cercocarpus,Ephedra, and Rhus) cluster on the left-hand side of
axis PC1. The right side of the same axis contains taxa typical of
oodplain shrubland (Sarcobatus vermiculatus, Asteraceae, Chrys-
othamnus, and Atriplex) as well as riparian species, including Sal-
icaceae (Populus/Salix) and Acer. Although Amelanchier is situated
on the right side but very close to the axis, its habitat is more
typical of dry slopes rather than of oodplains. In addition, a
strong correlation is observed between Juniperus and Pinus/Pinus
edulis, while Asteraceae species appear to form another group.
We aim to test the effects of the topographical characteristics
including elevation range and wall steepness of the six zones on
vegetation patterns observed in the pollen record and selection of
fuel/construction material during the Formative period in Nine
Mile Canyon.
5.1. Montane conifer forest
Fir, spruce, and Douglas-r, identied in the pollen record,
indicate montane conifer forests of the Tavaputs Plateau uplands
(~1800e3000 m asl). Presence of these taxa in the pollen record is
very sparse and indicates pollen blown in from higher elevations.
Of these, only Douglas-r is represented in the charcoal record,
especially in Zones I and II (Tables 2 and 3). Douglas-rgrowsin
elevations up to 2730 m, but it can be found on cooler north-facing
slopes in elevations as low as 1510 m. Samples from sites 42Cb3104
Fig. 7. Anthracological diagram of percentage fragment counts of key taxa identied in Nine Mile Canyon sites, Utah (compiled by P. Kov
a
cik).
P. Kov
a
cik, L. Scott Cummings / Quaternary International 463 (2018) 312e326 319
Fig. 8. SEM microphotographs of wood charcoal specimens from archaeological sites in Nine Mile Canyon: (A) Sarcobatus vermiculatus (greasewood) transverse section (TS), (B)
Pinus edulis (twoneedle pinyon) transverse section (TS), (C) Juniperus (juniper) transverse section (TS), (D) Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas-r) transverse section (TS), (E) Pseu-
dotsuga menziesii (Douglas-r) tangential section (TLS), (F) Artemisia (sagebrush) transverse section (TS), (G) Populus (cottonwood/aspen) transverse section (TS), (H) Salix (willow)
transverse section (TS), and (I) Amelanchier (serviceberry) transverse section (TS) (photo by P. Kov
a
cik).
P. Kov
a
cik, L. Scott Cummings / Quaternary International 463 (2018) 312e326320
and 42Cb3105 (Zone II) contained more than 50% of Douglas-r
charcoal, indicating easy access and availability of this taxa.
Absence of Douglas-r charcoal in Zone V (Table 4) and its limited
presence in the assemblages from Zones IV (Table 5) and VI
(Table 6) is expected due to topography of the canyon at these lo-
cations, consisting of tall cliffs (Fig. 11). Elevated Douglas-r char-
coal values at site 42Dc3053 (Zone IV) may indicate burned
construction wood. In contrast to the majority of single hearth sites
in the study area, 42Dc3053 represent one of the largest sites with
several superimposed pit structures. Douglas-r provides one of
the most valuable timbers for construction in this area. It is possible
that in areas with limited access to this wood type, use of Douglas-
r as fuel might be restricted to waste pieces such as structural
elements that needed to be replaced or were discarded due to wear,
damage, or infestation by insects/termites. Burning drift wood or
wood collected from debris-ow deposits on the canyon oor also
could have introduced this type of wood in Zone IVeVI charcoal
assemblages.
5.2. Pinyon-juniper woodland
South and east-facing slopes of the canyon support pinyon-
juniper woodlands and shrubland communities, represented by
twoneedle pinyon and juniper. Both pollen and charcoal records
indicate pinyon/pine as one of the most available and frequently
used conifers in the canyon. The palynological record indicates a
decreasing trend of pine pollen concentration downstream along
Fig. 9. SEM microphotopraphs of wood charcoal specimens from archaeological sites in Nine Mile Canyon: (A) Chrysothamnus (rabbitbrush) transverse section (TS), (B) Atriplex
(saltbush) transverse section (TS), (C) Ephedra (jointr) transverse section (TS), (D) Acer (maple) transverse section (TS), (E) Rhus (sumac) transverse section (TS), and (F) Cercocarpus
(mountain mahogany) transverse section (TS) (photo by P. Kov
a
cik).
Fig. 10. Principal Components Analysis (PCA) plot of anthracological dataset from sites
in Nine Mile Canyon, Utah.
P. Kov
a
cik, L. Scott Cummings / Quaternary International 463 (2018) 312e326 321
the Nine Mile Creek. Variability in abundance of twoneedle pinyon
charcoal at sites from different locations in the canyon may reect
accessibility to this tree. Absence or limited presence of pinyon
charcoal fragments in the assemblages of three neighboring sites
(42Cb0683, 42Cb3036, and 42Cb3035) in Zone V demonstrates
how the local topography, represented by steep cliffs rising above
the canyon bottom, affects species representation in the charcoal
assemblages. In addition, pine bark scale (a byproduct of burning
pine logs), commonly recovered at the sites from this study area,
was absent in the macrooral records from these three sites, also
suggesting limited pinyon growth in this area.
Pinyon trees produce edible nuts collected by prehistoric oc-
cupants of the canyon. Charred pine cone scales and seed fragments
were recovered from site 42Cb3075 (Zone I) while charred pine
seeds were noted in six features/samples from site 42Dc3053 (Zone
IV), indicating processing pine nuts. Recovery of pine cone scales
suggests local nut processing and, hence, probably local growth of
pines.
Juniper charcoal fragments also were present in anthracological
assemblages from all zones of the canyon. Juniper charcoal gener-
ally accompanies the appearance of pinyon charcoal, except for site
42Cb3036, where the charcoal record is exclusively composed of
juniper. Unlike charcoal, the pollen record provides limited juniper
pollen concentration, probably resulting from production of lesser
quantities of pollen per tree, as well as a greater tendency towards
juniper pollen deterioration with time.
Other species typical of this environment include jointr,
members of the rose family (serviceberry and mountain mahog-
any), sumac, and oak. Oak, noted only in the pollen record, appears
to be insignicant or inaccessible for prehistoric populations.
5.3. Floodplain shrubland
Although greasewood and sagebrush both represent oodplain
desert shrub communities, various sagebrush species grow in ele-
vations ranging between 820 and 3400 m (Albee et al.,
1988:37e41). On the other hand, greasewood prefers alkaline or
saline soils (Mozingo,1987) and grows at elevations of 840e2120 m
(Albee et al., 1988:219). These ecological preferences were observed
in the pollen record, showing decreasing sagebrush and increasing
greasewood pollen downstream of the creek. The charcoal record
conforms to this trend. Greasewood charcoal is completely absent
at sites from Zone I (~2080 m asl), located along the upper portion
of the Nine Mile Creek, while it is continuously recovered at sites
from Zones III (Table 7) through VI. Greasewood was the only type
identied in the charcoal assemblage from site 42Cb3117 (Zone II),
while at eight other sites it comprises more than 56% of the record.
Abundance of this taxon indicate that most sites were located
above the active oodplain, where soil is more saline, leaving rst
terraces available for corn agriculture. Other salt-tolerant taxa
include saltbush and other members of the goosefoot and
amaranth family. Saltbush charcoal was recovered only at sites
from Zone VI, while charred saltbush seeds and fruits were noted in
all zones, except Zone I. In addition to saltbush, charred seeds
recovered from different sites in the canyon indicate amaranth and
goosefoot processing. The pollen record also reects a signicant
increase of Amaranthaceae pollen grains downstream in the
canyon.
Although sagebrush charcoal does not follow the pattern
observed in the pollen record, its high abundance (above 75%) at
three sites from Zones II, IV, and VI is interesting. Two of these
Table 4
Fragment count (C), percentage abundance (%), and ubiquity (U) for anthracological assemblages from Zone V (compiled by P. Kov
a
cik).
Zone V
~1720-1710 m asl
Plant community
Taxon Site Totals
42Cb0683 42Cb3036 42Cb3035
Scientic Name Common Name C % U C % U C % U C % U
Pinyon-juniper Juniperus Juniper 40 100.0 100.0 40 25.0 25.0
Pinus/Pinus edulis Pine/Twoneedle pinyon 1 1.3 50.0 1 0.6 25.0
Amelanchier Serviceberry 12 30.0 100.0 12 7.5 25.0
Floodplain Artemisia Sagebrush 2 2.5 50.0 2 1.3 25.0
Sarcobatus vermiculatus Greasewood 28 70.0 100.0 76 95.0 100.0 104 65.0 75.0
Riparian Acer Maple 1 1.3 50.0 1 0.6 25.0
Totals 40 100.0 40 100.0 80 100.0 160 100.0
# of Taxa 2 1 4 6
# of Features/Samples 1 1 2 4
Table 5
Fragment count (C), percentage abundance (%), and ubiquity (U) for anthracological assemblages from Zone IV (compiled by P. Kov
a
cik).
Zone IV
~1790e1830 m asl
Plant community
Taxon Site Totals
42Dc3053 42Dc3147 42Dc3145
Scientic Name Common Name C % U C % U C % U C % U
Montane Pseudotsuga menziesii Douglas-r 151 18.0 81.8 1 1.3 50.0 152 16.0 76.0
Pinyon-juniper Juniperus Juniper 93 11.1 59.1 24 30.0 100.0 117 12.3 60.0
Pinus/Pinus edulis Pine/Twoneedle pinyon 151 18.0 86.4 41 51.3 100.0 192 20.2 84.0
Amelanchier Serviceberry 9 1.1 22.7 9 0.9 20.0
Floodplain Asteraceae Sunower family 9 1.1 18.2 9 0.9 16.0
Artemisia Sagebrush 92 10.9 77.3 25 83.3 100.0 117 12.3 72.0
Chrysothamnus Rabbitbrush 9 1.1 18.2 1 1.3 50.0 10 1.1 20.0
Sarcobatus vermiculatus Greasewood 201 23.9 77.3 5 16.7 100.0 9 11.3 50.0 215 22.6 76.0
Riparian Populus/Salix Cottonwood/Willow 126 15.0 81.8 4 5.0 50.0 130 13.7 76.0
Totals 841 100.0 30 100.0 80 100.0 951 100.0
# of Taxa 9 2 6 9
# of Features/Samples 22 1 2 25
P. Kov
a
cik, L. Scott Cummings / Quaternary International 463 (2018) 312e326 323
features represent roasting pits (sites 42Cb3112 and 42Dc3147),
which may explain selection of a certain type of wood, such as
sagebrush, to add a avor. Sagebrush also was used ceremonially
(Dunmire and Tierney, 1997:193; Moerman, 1998:92e103). Other
members of the Asteraceae family, including rabbitbrush, have
similar environmental preferences as sagebrush, and often grow in
the same habitat.
5.4. Riparian zone
Trees and shrubs of the riparian plant community are indicated
only in the anthracological record by cottonwood/willow and a few
maple charcoal fragments. The cottonwood/willow fragments
might represent aspen, which grows mixed with Douglas-rat
higher elevations. The likelihood that Populus/Salix charcoal rep-
resents aspen is greater at site 42Cb3062 than at sites downstream,
as assessed by recovery of a greater quantity of Pseudotsuga
(Douglas-r) charcoal there and this site's placement in Zone II.
Charred willow twigs identied at site 42Dc3053 indicate willow
was used in construction of a mat exposed on the oor of a pit
structure. In addition, cattail pollen and charred seeds, as well as
pollen grains reecting a member of the sedge family, also indicate
riparian vegetation.
6. Conclusions
Anthracological and pollen analysis conducted on feature ll
recovered from multiple sites in Nine Mile Canyon, Utah, western
United States, provide a new view for reconstruction of prehistoric
woodlands. Four major vegetation communities, montane forest,
pinyon-juniper woodland, oodplain shrubland, and riparian zone,
were identied in the vicinity of sites situated along the upper and
middle portion of the Nine Mile Creek.
This study indicates that distribution of different plant com-
munities correlates to elevation and canyon wall steepness
(Fig. 11). Conifers, including Douglas-r, twoneedle pinyon, and
juniper, dominated both pollen and charcoal assemblages from
sites in the upper portion of the canyon with moderately steep
slopes. The pollen record indicates conifer (especially pine)
regression at sites in the downstream portion of the canyon, while
oodplain species including greasewood and members of the
amaranth/goosefoot family increase in abundance. These obser-
vations also are reected in the anthracological record, suggesting
prehistoric people used plants available to them directly in the
vicinity of their settlements. However, recovery of Douglas-r
charcoal from sites in the lower portion of the canyon's study
area indicates possible use of driftwood or wood collected from
the debris-ows for fuel. Distribution of sagebrush and grease-
wood observed in pollen and charcoal records indicates higher
salinity of the oodplain in the lower portion of the canyon.
Overall, lower quantities of sagebrush in the pollen record and in
anthracological assemblages from the lower reaches of the Nine
Mile Creek study area, compared with quantities observed on the
landscape today, may reect clearing activities and use of the
active oodplain or alluvial fans for agriculture.
In some cases these results indicated selection of certain wood
types by site occupants. Charcoal assemblages from hearth fea-
tures associated with pit structures at site 42Dc3053 suggested
secondary use of structural elements made of Douglas-r timber
as a fuel. Willow twigs were used in construction of a mat
encountered at the same site. Perhaps sagebrush wood was used
to add avor to food prepared in roasting pits from sites 42Cb3112
and 42Dc3147, although it simply might have been readily avail-
able locally. These examples suggest human preference based on
wood properties, including construction purposes as well as food
Table 6
Fragment count (C), percentage abundance (%), and ubiquity (U) for anthracological assemblages from Zone VI (compiled by P. Kov
a
cik).
Zone VI
~1630 m asl
Plant community
Taxon Site Totals
42Cb2909 42Cb3069 42Cb3070 42Cb3071 42Cb3072 42Cb2910 42Cb3074
Scientic Name Common Name C % U C % U C % U C % U C % U C % U C % U C % U
Montane Pseudotsuga menziesii Douglas-r 2 5.4 100.0 1 2.5 100.0 10 2.9 37.5 13 2.0 29.4
Pinyon-juniper Juniperus Juniper 8 9.9 100.0 1 1.8 50.0 2 5.4 100.0 6 15.0 100.0 17 41.5 100.0 50 14.6 87.5 84 13.2 82.4
Pinus/Pinus edulis Pine/Twoneedle pinyon 30 37.0 66.7 5 13.5 100.0 20 50.0 100.0 13 31.7 100.0 67 19.6 87.5 135 21.2 70.6
Ephedra Jointr 5 6.2 33.3 5 0.8 5.9
Rosaceae Rose family 1 1.2 33.3 1 0.3 12.5 2 0.3 11.8
Amelanchier Serviceberry 7 8.6 66.7 11 3.2 37.5 18 2.8 29.4
Floodplain Asteraceae Sunower family 1 1.8 50.0 1 0.2 5.9
Artemisia Sagebrush 10 12.3 66.7 2 3.6 100.0 1 2.7 100.0 4 9.8 100.0 61 17.8 100.0 30 75.0 100.0 108 17.0 88.2
Chrysothamnus Rabbitbrush 9 22.5 100.0 9 1.4 5.9
Sarcobatus vermiculatus Greasewood 20 24.7 66.7 51 92.7 100.0 21 56.8 100.0 12 30.0 100.0 6 14.6 100.0 109 31.9 100.0 219 34.4 88.2
Atriplex Saltbush 6 16.2 100.0 1 2.5 100.0 1 2.4 100.0 5 1.5 25.0 1 2.5 100.0 14 2.2 35.3
Riparian Acer Maple 1 0.3 12.5 1 0.2 5.9
Populus/Salix Cottonwood/Willow 27 7.9 62.5 27 4.2 29.4
Totals 81 100.0 55 100.0 37 100.0 40 100.0 41 100.0 342 100.0 40 100.0 636 100.0
# of Taxa 7465510313
# of Features/Samples 3 2 1 1 1 8 1 17
P. Kov
a
cik, L. Scott Cummings / Quaternary International 463 (2018) 312e326324
production.
Combined pollen and anthracological analyses, as presented
here, has the potential to investigate differences in vegetation that
might accompany long-term occupation and agricultural activities
and/or climate change through time when applied to samples
collected at close stratigraphic intervals. We recommend these
analyses be paired in future archaeological studies throughout the
American Southwest and adjoining regions.
Acknowledgments
Funding for this research was provided by Carbon County,
Duchesne County, and Jones and DeMille Engineering. We thank
Jody Patterson (Montgomery Archaeological Consultants) for
providing feature soils for analysis, editorial input, and acting as a
guide through Nine Mile Canyon. We recognize contributions to
this dataset by Kathryn Puseman and R.A. Varney as well as
constructive comments and suggestions from Jennifer Milligan.
Additionally, we thank the two anonymous reviewers for providing
suggestions and comments that help improve the article.
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Fig. 11. Archaeological sites (black dots) from a section of Nine Mile Canyon cluster in six different zones (IeVI). The longitudinal prole (blue line) shows the height (meters) of the
creek bed above sea level as well as the gradient and length (kilometers) of Nine Mile Creek in the study area. Approximate transverse proles of Nine Mile Canyon for each zone
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With an estimated 10,000 ancient rock art sites, Nine Mile Canyon has long captivated people the world over. The 45-mile-long canyon, dubbed the “World’s Longest Art Gallery,” hosts what is believed to be the largest concentration of rock art in North America. But rock art is only part of the amazing archaeological fabric that scholars have been struggling to explain for more than a century. Jerry D. Spangler takes the reader on a journey into Nine Mile Canyon through the eyes of the generations of archaeologists who have gone there only to leave bewildered by what it all means. The early visitors in the 1890s were determined to recover collections for museums but never much cared to understand the people who left the artifacts. Then came a cadre of young scientists-the first to be trained specifically in archaeology-who found Nine Mile Canyon to be an intriguing laboratory that yielded more questions than answers. Scholars such as Noel Morss, Donald Scott, Julian Steward, John Gillin, and John Otis Brew all left their boot prints there. Today, archaeological research is experiencing another renaissance-a new generation of university-trained archaeologists is determined to unravel the mystery of Nine Mile Canyon using scientific tools and techniques that were unavailable to past generations. Through the words and thoughts of the archaeologists, as well as the more than 150 photos, readers will come to see Nine Mile Canyon as an American treasure unlike any other. As the first book that is devoted exclusively to the archaeology of this unique place, Nine Mile Canyon will evoke fascination among scholars and the general public alike.
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Chapter
Plant material was collected during numerous field tours and expeditions. The geographic origin of the investigated specimens and the species nomenclature are summarized in Table 1. Details are given at http://www.wsl.ch/dendro/xylemdb/index.php. Clearly, the largest fraction of plants (about 80%) originated from Europe. Species from outside Europe served mainly to enlarge the taxonomic range and to demonstrate anatomical similarities between tectonically early separated regions.