The effects of the Mazama tephra-falls : a geoarchaeological approach Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/3b591d804

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  • About 7,000 years ago two major tephra-falls blanketed the Pacific Northwest in volcanic ash. These two tephra-falls, identified as the Llao and climatic tephra-falls, were a part of the eruptive events that led up to the collapse of Mount Mazama to form Crater Lake in the southern Oregon Cascades. The tephra-falls occurred about 200 years apart at around 7,000 years B.P. and 6,800 years B.P. for the Llao and climatic eruptions respectively. The effects of the tephra-falls on the flora, fauna, and people of the period have been characterized by different researchers as ranging from minimal to catastrophic. In an attempt to better understand the affects of these two events on the flora, fauna, and people, a model is presented to help organize the various lines of research into a coherent whole and to suggest profitable areas of research which have not yet been completed. The model is based on ecological and anthropological theory with a strong reliance on analogy with modern ecosystems and volcanic hazards research. The model makes use of the ecosystem concept as the framework for the interaction of the abiotic, or nonliving habitat, with the biotic, or living system. The biotic organisms are adapted to the characteristics of the abiotic habitat and in many respects the composition, frequencies, and distributions of biotic organisms are determined by their tolorance levels to these characteristics. Tephra-falls act as environmental disturbances which change the abiotic habitat of the ecosystem. Therefore, any changes caused by such a disturbance in the abiotic characteristics that are not optimal or are outside of the tolorance limits of the biotic (flora and fauna) components should cause changes in the composition, distribution, and frequency of organisms within the ecosystem. The changes brought about by the tephra-falls may be described by successional and evolutionary processes through analysis of pollen and faunal remains, population demography as described by mortality profiles, and research into the reaction of specific flora and fauna within adaptational types to the properties of tephra-falls and the tephra as a soil body. The state factors used to describe the abiotic component of the ecosystem are: time, distribution, material properties, climate, and geomorphology. The state factor of time involves the determination of the occurrence in time of the event(s), the duration of the event(s), the season of occurrence of the event(s), and the residence time of tephra in the ecosystem. This state factor is used to define the specific point in time and duration of the effects of the tephra-fall(s) for individual ecosystems. The state factor of distribution describes the aerial extent and thickness of the air-fall deposits. This state factor determines the extent of the initial disturbance. The state factor of climate describes the specific components of rainfall, wind, and temperature which control ecosystem composition and development, and the changes to the climate which may have occurred due to volcanic aerosols associated with the eruption. The state factor of geomorphology describes the location of tephra and nontephra bodies across the landscape and through time as the tephra is reworked by wind, water, and gravity from the initial air-fall positions. The determination of the long term distribution of the tephra is important in determining post-event influences on ecosystems as described by the material properties of the tephra. It is argued that most people were not greatly harmed by the Mazama tephra-fall events themselves, but instead may have been greatly affected by a loss of food resources during and after the events. Changes in food resource availability and exploitation locations due to the tephra-falls may have resulted in changes in both settlement and subsistence activities. Changes in settlement and subsistence activities may be seen in a corresponding change in differential frequencies of functional tool types across space and time. The kind and amount of expected changes in settlement and subsistence systems are linked to distance from the source of the tephra, the stability and compostion of pre-disturbance ecosystems, the types and intensity of resource exploitation, and the amount of variability in subsistence and settlement traits which were available to the sociocultural system.
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