Fire history on the California Channel Islands spanning human arrival in the Americas

Mark John Hardiman, Andrew C. Scott, Nicholas Pinter, R. Scott Anderson, Ana Ejarque, Alice Carter-Champion, Richard Staff

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    Recent studies have suggested that the first arrival of humans in the Americas
    during the end of the last Ice Age is associated with marked anthropogenic
    influences on landscape; in particular, with the use of fire which would have
    given even small populations the ability to have broad impacts on the landscape.
    Understanding the impact of these early people is complicated by the
    dramatic changes in climate occurring with the shift from glacial to interglacial
    conditions. Despite these difficulties, we here attempt to test the extent of
    anthropogenic influence using the California Channel Islands as a smaller,
    landscape-scale test bed. These islands are famous for the discovery of the
    ‘Arlington Springs Man’, which are some of the earliest human remains in
    the Americas. A unifying sedimentary charcoal record is presented from
    Arlington Canyon, Santa Rosa Island based on over 20 detailed sedimentary
    sections from eight key localities. Radiocarbon dating was based on thin,
    fragile, long fragments charcoal in order to avoid the ‘old wood’ problem.
    Radiocarbon dating of 49 such fragments has allowed inferences regarding
    the fire and landscape history of the Canyon ca 19–11 ka BP. A significant
    period of charcoal deposition is identified approximately 14–12.5 ka BP and
    bears remarkable closeness to an estimated appearance age range of the first
    human arrival on the islands.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number20150167
    Pages (from-to)1-12
    Number of pages12
    JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B
    Issue number1696
    Publication statusPublished - 5 Jun 2016


    • Fire
    • Charcoal
    • Radiocarbon Dating
    • Arlington Springs Man


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