Aridity, activity, and volcanic ash agriculture: A study of short‐term prehistoric cultural‐ecological dynamics

Alan P. Sullivan, Christian E. Downum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Scopus citations


Archaeologists working in north‐central Arizona have found it an ideal area to test hypotheses about culture and environment relationships because of the region's comparatively high aridity and abundant archaeological sites. One of the most interesting cases involves the reactions of prehistoric farmers to the eruptions of Sunset Crater that began in AD 1064. Previous attempts to interpret post‐eruptive patterns of land‐use were hampered by spotty archaeological surveys and unwarranted assumptions about the meaning of high site densities. We present a new model based on the analysis of 2,397 archaeological sites recorded during the intensive inventory survey of Wupatki National Monument. Results suggest that post‐eruptive prehistoric farming strategies, which shifted from extensive to intensive, promoted permanent ecological degradation of the Wupatki landscape after only about 120 years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-287
Number of pages17
JournalWorld Archaeology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1991
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

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