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Contribution of Fire in Prehistoric Survival

Primitive villagers usually relied on planting corn. This helped them in surviving dry and adverse conditions prevailing in American Southwest. Alan Sullivan, an archaeology professor at the University of Cincinnati believes that the villagers used fire to cultivate wild foods. Sullivan has contributed more than two decades towards archaeological field research to Grand Canyon National Park and the region's Upper Basin. On the basis of all the clues and scientific analysis, he explained that people in those times made use of fire to support the growth of ruderals.

Ruderals are edible leaves, seeds and nuts of plants such as amaranth and chenopodium, wild relatives of quinoa. Sullivan recognised approx. 6000-7000 pollen grains from the dirt inside clay pots, out of which only six were corn. All the rest were dominated by ruderals. He found evidences that people burnt the understory of grasses and weeds. At the same time they made sure that the fires do not harm pinyon and juniper trees, essential sources of calorie-rich nuts, berries. He also examined the Grand Canyon in the last spring, which was demolished by a huge fire in 2016. Regardless of the enormous fire, the burnt area was all covered with ruderals.

He found that fire increases the diversity of forest species. The fire responsive plants have more or less disappeared now. Scientists are presently focusing on how to adjust forest management approaches in the light of climate change.


By- Anuja Arora

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