The fascinating story of how a harsh terrain that resembled modern Antarctica has been transformed gradually into the forests, grasslands, and wetlands we know today.
"One of the best scientific books published in the last ten years."—Ottowa Journal
"A valuable new synthesis of facts and ideas about climate, geography, and life during the past 20,000 years. More important, the book conveys an intimate appreciation of the rich variety of nature through time."—S. David Webb,Science
This comprehensive study of one of the most ecologically rich regions of the Southeast underscores the relevance of archaeological research in understanding long-term cultural change.
Taking a holistic approach, this compilation gathers ecological, historical, and archaeological research written on the distinctive region of the Southeast called the Gulf coast blackland prairie. Ranging from the last glacial period to the present day, the case studies provide a broad picture of how the area has changed through time and been modified by humans, first with nomadic bands of Indians trailing the grazing animals and then by Euro-American settlers who farmed the rich agricultural area. Contemporary impacts include industrialization, aquaculture, population growth, land reclamation, and wildlife management.
It is believed that the Black Belt and the Great Plains were contiguous in the past and shared the same prairie vegetation, insects, and large fauna, such as bison. Swaths and patches of limestone-based soils still weave a biological corridor through what is now Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. In analyzing this distinct grassland ecosystem, the essays compare both the mega and minute flora and fauna sustained by the land in the past and present; reveal what foods were harvested by early inhabitants, their gathering techniques, and diet changes over the 10,000-year period of native occupancy; survey the documents of early explorers for descriptions of the landform, its use, and the lives of inhabitants at the time of contact; and look at contemporary efforts to halt abuse and reverse damage to this unique and shrinking biome.
This book demonstrates that the blackland prairie has always been an important refuge for a teeming array of biological species, including humans. It will have wide scholarly appeal as well as general interest and will be welcomed by archaeologists, biologists, botanists, ecologists, historians, librarians, politicians, land managers, and national, state, and local administrators.
Evan Peacock is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Mississippi State University and a contributor to The Woodland Southeast.Timothy Schauwecker is a biologist with Mississippi State University.
In conservation, perhaps no better example exists of the past informing the present than the return of the California condor to the Vermilion Cliffs of Arizona. Extinct in the region for nearly one hundred years, condors were successfully reintroduced starting in the 1990s in an effort informed by the fossil record—condor skeletal remains had been found in the area’s late-Pleistocene cave deposits. The potential benefits of applying such data to conservation initiatives are unquestionably great, yet integrating the relevant disciplines has proven challenging. Conservation Paleobiology gathers a remarkable array of scientists—from Jeremy B. C. Jackson to Geerat J. Vermeij—to provide an authoritative overview of how paleobiology can inform both the management of threatened species and larger conservation decisions.
Studying endangered species is difficult. They are by definition rare, some exist only in captivity, and for those still in their native habitats any experimentation can potentially have a negative effect on survival. Moreover, a lack of long-term data makes it challenging to anticipate biotic responses to environmental conditions that are outside of our immediate experience. But in the fossil and prefossil records—from natural accumulations such as reefs, shell beds, and caves to human-made deposits like kitchen middens and archaeological sites—enlightening parallels to the Anthropocene can be found that might serve as a primer for present-day predicaments. Offering both deep-time and near-time perspectives and exploring a range of ecological and evolutionary dynamics and taxa from terrestrial as well as aquatic habitats, Conservation Paleobiology is a sterling demonstration of how the past can be used to manage for the future, giving new hope for the creation and implementation of successful conservation programs.
Early Hominin Paleoecology
Matt Sponhiemer, Julia A Lee-Thorp, Kaye E. Reed, Peter Ungar University Press of Colorado, 2013 Library of Congress GN282.E37 2013 | Dewey Decimal 569.9
An introduction to the multidisciplinary field of hominin paleoecology for advanced undergraduate students and beginning graduate students, Early Hominin Paleoecology offers an up-to-date review of the relevant literature, exploring new research and synthesizing old and new ideas.
Recent advances in the field and the laboratory are not only improving our understanding of human evolution but are also transforming it. Given the increasing specialization of the individual fields of study in hominin paleontology, communicating research results and data is difficult, especially to a broad audience of graduate students, advanced undergraduates, and the interested public. Early Hominin Paleoecology provides a good working knowledge of the subject while also presenting a solid grounding in the sundry ways this knowledge has been constructed. The book is divided into three sections—climate and environment (with a particular focus on the latter), adaptation and behavior, and modern analogs and models—and features contributors from various fields of study, including archaeology, primatology, paleoclimatology, sedimentology, and geochemistry.
Early Hominin Paleoecology is an accessible introduction into this fascinating and ever-evolving field and will be essential to any student interested in pursuing research in human paleoecology.
David J. Daegling
Fred E. Grine
Naomi E. Levin
Mark A. Maslin
Amy L. Rector
Lillian M. Spencer
Carol V. Ward
Katy E. Wilson
Where did the first Americans come from and when did they get here? That basic question of American archaeology, long thought to have been solved, is re-emerging as a critical issue as the number of well-excavated sites dating to pre-Clovis times increases. It now seems possible that small populations of human foragers entered the Americas prior to the creation of the continental glacial barrier. While the archaeological and paleoecological aspects of a post-glacial entry have been well studied, there is little work available on the possibility of a pre-glacial entry.
Entering America seeks to fill that void by providing the most up-to-date information on the nature of environmental and cultural conditions in northeast Asia and Beringia (the Bering land bridge) immediately prior to the Last Glacial Maximum. Because the peopling of the New World is a question of international archaeological interest, this volume will be important to specialists and nonspecialists alike.
Archaeology provides an ideal avenue for examining long-term processes and interrelationships between human behavior and environmental stability, variation, and change. The American Southwest is particularly well suited for such 'deep-time' investigations because of its comprehensive archaeological record, rich ethnographic and historical data on its peoples, and unmatched reconstructions of multiple environmental variables across a broad range of spatial and temporal scales.
This volume contains a varied and instructive set of studies of human behavioral adaptation to environmental change in the ancient Southwest. It makes significant contributions to southwestern prehistory, settlement pattern studies, agriculture, behavioral ecology, paleo-environmental reconstruction, and statistical and computer-aided modeling. The mix of case studies and syntheses covers the Colorado Plateau, Sonoran Desert, Mogollon Highlands, and Rio Grande Valley and summarizes the work of some of the leading researchers in the region.
How were the tropical Americas formed? This ambitious volume draws on extensive, multidisciplinary research to develop new views of the geological formation of the isthmus linking North and South America and of the major environmental changes that reshaped the Neotropics to create its present-day marine and terrestrial ecosystems.
Recent discoveries show that dramatic changes in climate and ocean circulation can occur very quickly, and that ecological communities respond just as rapidly. Abrupt changes in the composition of fossil assemblages, formerly dismissed as artifacts of a poor fossil record, now are seen as accurate records of swift changes in the composition of ocean communities.
The twenty-four contributors use current work in paleontology, geology, oceanography, anthropology, ecology, and evolution to paint this challenging portrait of rapid environmental and evolutionary change. Their conclusions argue for a revision of existing interpretations of the fossil record and the processes—including invading Eurasian peoples—that have produced it.
The aims of this study are twofold: compile, for the first time, all the archaeological, environmental, and geological data pertinent to the evolution of the aboriginal inhabitants of southwest Florida; and, using this basis, develop a specific, integrated, and dynamic model of cultural adaptation that will serve as a stimulus for hypotheses that go beyond simple culture-historical concerns for future archaeological research in this region.
With all the recent advances in molecular and evolutionary biology, one could almost wonder why we need the fossil record. Molecular sequence data can resolve taxonomic relationships, experiments with fruit flies demonstrate evolution and development in real time, and field studies of Galapagos finches have provided the strongest evidence for natural selection ever measured in the wild. What, then, can fossils teach us that living organisms cannot?
Evolutionary Patterns demonstrates the rich variety of clues to evolution that can be gleaned from the fossil record. Chief among these are the major trends and anomalies in species development revealed only by "deep time," such as periodic mass extinctions and species that remain unchanged in form for millions of years. Contributors explore modes of development, the tempo of speciation and extinction, and macroevolutionary patterns and trends. The result is an important contribution to paleobiology and evolutionary biology, and a spirited defense of the fossil record as a crucial tool for understanding evolution and development.
The contributors are Ann F. Budd, Efstathia Bura, Leo W. Buss, Mike Foote, Jörn Geister, Stephen Jay Gould, Eckart Hâkansson, Jean-Georges Harmelin, Lee-Ann C. Hayek, Jeremy B. C. Jackson, Kenneth G. Johnson, Nancy Knowlton, Scott Lidgard, Frank K. McKinney, Daniel W. McShea, Ross H. Nehm, Beth Okamura, John M. Pandolfi, Paul D. Taylor, and Erik Thomsen.
One of the first interdisciplinary discussions of taphonomy (the study of how fossil assemblages are formed) and paleoecology (the reconstruction of ancient ecosystems), this volume helped establish these relatively new disciplines. It was originally published as part of the influential Prehistoric Archeology and Ecology series.
"Taphonomy is plainly here to stay, and this book makes a first class introduction to its range and appeal."—Anthony Smith, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews
Approximately 99% of all life that has ever existed is extinct. Fortunately, these long dead species have left traces of their lives and interactions with other species in the rock record that paleoecologists use to understand how species and ecosystems have changed over time. This record of past life allows us to study the dynamic nature of the Earth and gives context to current and future ecological challenges.
This book brings together forty-four classic papers published between 1924 and 1999 that trace the origins and development of paleoecology. The articles cross taxonomic groups, habitat types, geographic areas, and time and have made substantial contributions to our knowledge of the evolution of life. Encompassing the full breadth of paleoecology, the book is divided into six parts: community and ecosystem dynamics, community reconstruction, diversity dynamics, paleoenvironmental reconstruction, species interaction, and taphonomy. Each paper is also introduced by a contemporary expert who gives context and explains its importance to ongoing paleoecological research. A comprehensive introduction to the field, Foundations of Paleoecology will be an essential reference for new students and established paleoecologists alike.
By the Early Holocene (10,000 to 8,000 B.P.), small wandering bands of Archaic hunter-gatherers began to annually follow the same hunting trails, basing their temporary camps on seasonal conditions and the presence of food. The Pleistocene glaciers had receded by this time, making food more plentiful in some areas and living conditions less hazardous. Although these Archaic peoples have long been known from their primary activities as hunters and gatherers of wild food resources, recent evidence has been found that indicates they also began rudimentary cultivation sometime during the Middle Holocene.
Richard Jefferies—an Archaic specialist—comprehensively addresses the approximately 7,000 years of the prehistory of eastern North America, termed the Archaic Period by archaeologists. Jefferies centers his research on a 380-mile section of the Lower Ohio River Valley, an area rife with both temporary and long-term Archaic sites. He covers the duration of the Holocene and provides a compendium of knowledge of the era, including innovative research strategies and results. Presenting these data from a cultural-ecological perspective emphasizing the relationships between hunter-gatherers and the environments in which they lived, Jefferies integrates current research strategies with emerging theories that are beginning to look at culture history in creative ways
Threats to biodiversity, food shortages, urban sprawl . . . lessons for environmental problems that confront us today may well be found in the past. The archaeological record contains hundreds of situations in which societies developed long-term sustainable relationships with their environments—and thousands in which the relationships were destructive. Charles Redman demonstrates that much can be learned from an improved understanding of peoples who, through seemingly rational decisions, degraded their environments and threatened their own survival. By discussing archaeological case studies from around the world—from the deforestation of the Mayan lowlands to soil erosion in ancient Greece to the almost total depletion of resources on Easter Island—Redman reveals the long-range coevolution of culture and environment and clearly shows the impact that ancient peoples had on their world. These case studies focus on four themes: habitat transformation and animal extinctions, agricultural practices, urban growth, and the forces that accompany complex society. They show that humankind's commitment to agriculture has had cultural consequences that have conditioned our perception of the environment and reveal that societies before European contact did not necessarily live the utopian existences that have been popularly supposed. Whereas most books on this topic tend to treat human societies as mere reactors to environmental stimuli, Redman's volume shows them to be active participants in complex and evolving ecological relationships. Human Impact on Ancient Environments demonstrates how archaeological research can provide unique insights into the nature of human stewardship of the Earth and can permanently alter the way we think about humans and the environment.
The research in this volume derives from investigations conducted in connection with proposed widening and realignment of the Paulina-East Lake Highway, located within the caldera of Newberry Volcano. Formal evaluation of 13 localities and data recovers at four sites produced a wealth of information regarding human uses of the caldera and vicinity throughout the Holocene.
Initial evaluations were conducted in 1990 at nine sites. Text excavations the following year were conducted at four additional localities. The results of data recovery excavations undertaken at four sites in 1992 are reported in this volume.
Over the past thirty years, late Quaternary environments in the arid interior of western North America have been revealed by a unique source of fossils: well-preserved fragments of plants and animals accumulated locally by packrats and quite often encased, amberlike, in large masses of crystallized urine. These packrat middens are ubiquitous in caves and rock crevices throughout the arid West, where they can lie preserved for tens of thousands of years. More than a thousand of these deposits have been dated and analyzed, and middens have supplanted pollen records as a touchstone for studying vegetation dynamics and climatic change in radiocarbon time (the last 40,000 years). Now, similar deposits made by other mammals like hyraxes are being reported from other parts of the world.
This book brings together the findings and views of many of the researchers investigating fossil middens in the United States, Mexico, Africa, the Middle East, and Australia. The contributions serve to open a forum for methodological concerns, update the fossil record of various geographic regions, introduce new applications, and display the vast potential for fossil midden analysis in arid regions worldwide. The findings presented here will serve to foster regional research and to promote general studies devoted to global climate change. Included in the text are more than two hundred charts, photographs, and maps.
About 12,000 years ago, a major river ran from the Sevier Basin to the Great Salt Lake, feeding a wetland delta system and creating riparian habitat along its length. But after three thousand years the river dried up and the surrounding lands became more like what we see today. Because the Old River Bed Delta experienced less environmental and human disturbance than other areas, many of the Paleoarchaic sites found there have remained relatively intact—a rare find in the Great Basin. This book presents a comprehensive synthesis of a decade of investigations conducted by research teams working in different parts of the delta and explores questions about how the old riverbed was formed, how its distributary system changed through time, and how these changes affected early foragers. It concludes with an integrated summary and interpretation. Additional material from this study will be available online at UofUpress.com.
Supplementary Material for The Paleoarchaic Occupation of the Old River Bed Delta
Were the earliest inhabitants of the Great Basin 'Paleoindians' in the traditional sense? Were they highly mobile foragers? Did they hunt large, now extinct animals like mammoth, horse, and camel?
Great Basin archaeologists have argued that the earliest inhabitants possessed an organization strategy of mixed 'Paleoindian' and 'Archaic' lifeways, referring to them as 'Paleoarchaic.'
Recent excavations of rock shelters and caves, coupled with innovative studies of the surface archaeological record have increased our understanding of human organization in the Great Basin during the late Pleistocene and early Holocene. When did humans first inhabit the Great Basin? How do we interpret projectile point variability from late Pleistocene and early Holocene contexts? What land-use and foraging strategies characterized the early inhabitants? Did these hunter-gatherers possess a Paleoindian or Paleoarchaic lifeway?
This volume offers an updated perspective of human ecology and organization during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition in the Great Basin, 13,000–8,000 years ago.
The first English translation of Johannes Weigelt's 1927 classic makes available the seminal work in taphonomy, the study of how organisms die, decay, become entombed in sediments, and fossilize over time. Weigelt emphasized the importance of empirical work and made extensive observations of modern carcasses on the Texas Gulf Coast. He applied the results to evidence from the fossil record and demonstrated that an understanding of the postmortem fate of modern animals is crucial to making sound inferences about fossil vertebrate assemblages and their ecological communities.
Weigelt spent sixteen months on the Gulf Coast in the mid-1920s, gathering evidence from the carcasses of cattle and other animals in the early stages of preservation. This book reports his observations. He discusses death and decomposition; classifies various modes of death (drowning, cold, dehydration, fire, mud, quicksand, oil slicks, etc.); documents and analyzes the positions of carcasses; presents detailed data on carcass assemblages at the Smither's Lake site in Texas; and, in a final chapter, makes comparisons to carcass assemblages from the geologic past. He raises questions about whether much of the fossil record is a product of unusual events and, if so, what the implications are for paleoecological studies.
The English edition of Recent Vertebrate Carcasses includes a foreword and a translator's note that comment on Weigelt's life and the significance of his work. The original bibliography has been brought up to date, and, where necessary, updated scientific and place names have been added to the text in brackets. An index of names, places, and subjects is included, and Weigelt's own photographs of carcasses and drawings of skeletons illustrate the text.
Whether the fossil record should be read at face value or whether it presents a distorted view of the history of life is an argument seemingly as old as many fossils themselves. In the late 1700s, Georges Cuvier argued for a literal interpretation, but in the early 1800s, Charles Lyell’s gradualist view of the earth’s history required a more nuanced interpretation of that same record. To this day, the tension between literal and interpretive readings lies at the heart of paleontological research, influencing the way scientists view extinction patterns and their causes, ecosystem persistence and turnover, and the pattern of morphologic change and mode of speciation.
With Stratigraphic Paleobiology, Mark E. Patzkowsky and Steven M. Holland present a critical framework for assessing the fossil record, one based on a modern understanding of the principles of sediment accumulation. Patzkowsky and Holland argue that the distribution of fossil taxa in time and space is controlled not only by processes of ecology, evolution, and environmental change, but also by the stratigraphic processes that govern where and when sediment that might contain fossils is deposited and preserved. The authors explore the exciting possibilities of stratigraphic paleobiology, and along the way demonstrate its great potential to answer some of the most critical questions about the history of life: How and why do environmental niches change over time? What is the tempo and mode of evolutionary change and what processes drive this change? How has the diversity of life changed through time, and what processes control this change? And, finally, what is the tempo and mode of change in ecosystems over time?