MA Theses in HRM: Earl Stefanyshen, 2019

Microstratigraphic protocol to assess the impact of wildland fires on subsurface archaeological sites


Wildland fires around the globe have been increasing in their severity and frequency, leaving natural and heritage resource managers to cope with their irreversible effects. Here, I review the literature on wildland fire environments and behavior and I investigate their influence on buried archaeological materials. To better understand this process, I propose and test a protocol which utilizes soil micromorphology and Fourier transform infrared microspectroscopy to quantify the impact of thermal energy on the sub-surface environment and the transformations that occur within the chemistry and mineralogy of common organic soils. An initial application of this protocol was carried out within the perimeter of a wildland fire near Logan Lake, British Columbia, which successfully measured on a millimetre-scale the heat diffusion pattern through the soil column. This analytical protocol can now be used in post-burn investigations to assess the effects of wildland fires on sub-surface archaeological materials of different regions.