Paper No. 9
Presentation Time: 11:00 AM
SYCNHRONOUS ENVIRONMENTAL AND CULUTRAL CHANGE IN THE PREHISTORY OF THE NORTHEASTERN UNITED STATES
Paleoenvironmental reconstructions from the northeastern United States have shown a strong association between changes in climate and terrestrial ecosystems throughout the late Quaternary, but the relationship between these environmental changes and prehistoric human culture and population size remains unclear. Using a database of archaeological radiocarbon dates alongside a network of paleoecological records (sedimentary pollen and charcoal) and paleoclimatic reconstructions (temperature and lake-level), we show that periods of cultural and demographic change in the northeastern United States occur at the same times as the major environmental-climatic transitions of that region. At 11.6, 8.2, 5.4 and 3.0 kyr BP (103 calendar years before present), changes in forest composition altered the distribution, availability and predictability of food resources which triggered technological adjustments manifested in the archaeological record. Human population level has varied in response to these external changes in ecosystems, but the adoption of maize agriculture during the late Holocene also resulted in a substantial population increase. This study demonstrates the long-term interconnectedness of prehistoric human cultures and the ecosystems they inhabited, and provides a consolidated environmental-cultural framework from which more interdisciplinary research and discussion can develop. Moreover, it emphasizes the complex nature of human responses to environmental change in a temperate region.