Advisor: William Honeychurch
The Yampa and White River drainage basin of northwest Colorado is a vast area consisting of approximately 2.6 million acres of mixed public, private, state, and federal land. From approximately 2100 to 400 B.P. the area was also home to the formative post-Archaic Native American group, known as the Fremont. The Fremont were essentially a horticultural Native American group that relied heavily on wild plant resources, cultivating a variety of plants including Zea mays (maize), and hunting. To date, no distinct archaeological record of landscapes utilized in maize agriculture has been discovered in Northwest Colorado. This lack of information in the archaeological record is due to the dynamic nature of a landscape affected by erosive processes and the use of a low impact form of cultivation which leaves a light footprint.
The goal of this project is to formulate a process to identify micro-ecologies that have a higher probability of having once facilitated maize cultivation by Fremont Native Americans. The identification of these micro-ecologies will be based on the analysis of Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) signature of the Yampa and White River drainage basin of northwest Colorado. Analysis of NDVI signature was chosen because of the ability of the imagery to function as a proxy for general environmental conditions. Because NDVI signature relates information about the type, total, and health of vegetation communities of an area we can safely extrapolate out certain assumptions about the general environmental conditions present. This holds especially true in arid conditions, such as the project area, where the presence and amount of vegetation is extremely dependent on the availability of water.