Monday, July 02, 2012

Ancient Fires at Cliff Palace Pond

Cliff Palace Pond “fall harvest,” Late Archaic/Early Woodland periods.

Gardening native plants allowed American Indian family groups to stay in settlements such as Cliff Palace Pond for longer periods of time. This “fall harvest scene” shows family members gathering food and processing deer at a rockshelter below Cliff Palace Pond.

Credits: Artist Rex Robinson, © 2000, Kentucky Heritage Council

Episode 101 - “Ancient Fires at Cliff Palace Pond”

Overview: This episode examines landmark research into the Kentucky’s first forest managers. Archaeologist Cecil Ison takes viewers to a spectacular site known as Cliff Palace Pond at Kenner Point Knob in Daniel Boone National Forest. Excavations of a rockshelter and soil cores from a nearby pond reveal that American Indians have been using fire to manage the forests for over 3,000 years. This scientific research is being applied to contemporary fire management practices of the USDA Forest Service throughout Kentucky.

The video begins with a description of controlled or “pre-scribed” burns by fire managers in Daniel Boone National Forest. Jerry Wolfe, an elder of the Eastern Band of Cherokee, explains how American Indians have used fire to nurture the health and “fruits” of the forest during the historic era. Yet, until the 1990s, scientists didn’t know that American Indians have been managing the Eastern Woodland forests for over 3,000 years.

Archaeologists visit the Cliff Palace Pond site to document traces of ancient American Indian life, including an ancient petroglyph (geometric design) and stairs carved into a rocky path to the Keener Point Knob plateau. Cecil Ison explains how sediments in a rare upland pond serve as a time capsule, recording over 10,000 years of environmental data. Paleoecologist Paul Delcourt, University of Tennessee-Knoxville, describes how the combined analysis of both archaeological data and pond sediments provide insights into how American Indians used fire to manage their environment for over 3,000 years. The video concludes with discussions about the importance of fire in the forests and how researching the past can inform the present and help us plan for the future.

Cliff Palace Pond “Bird’s-eye-view,” Late Archaic/Early Woodland periods.
American Indians used fire to manage forests since the Archaic period. This “bird’s-eye-view” shows several controlled burns around Cliff Palace Pond in Jackson County. During the early Woodland period, American Indians began to domesticate native plants such as squash, gourds, sunflower and maygrass. Fire was also used to help clear land for small garden plots.

Credits: Artist Rex Robinson, © 2000, Kentucky Heritage Council

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