A Burnt Landscape: Forest Composition in Rabun County, Georgia, 1820 C.E.
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Mesophication across the southeastern United States has raised curiosity regarding the frequency and spatial distribution of fire and the extent of fire-dependent vegetation before European settlement. This study examines the relationship between fire-tolerant tree species and Native American archaeological sites to look at the human impact on vegetation. Specifically, this study uses original land surveys from the southern Blue Ridge Mountains of Rabun County, Georgia to explore forest composition at the beginning of European settlement in 1820. GIS and statistical analyses were used to examine the relationship between distance and density of archaeological sites and fire-tolerant taxa. Fire-tolerant trees accounted for the majority of trees in Rabun County and resulted in a homogenous landscape. The overwhelming fire-tolerant majority did not show that fire was frequent and widespread in this portion of the southern Blue Ridge Mountains. This study analyzed separately the witness tree points marked as posts and stakes, which may indicate areas of land that lacked trees. No relationship was found between these non-tree sites and Native American settlements, however they could also be indicators of fuel provided for frequent fire. From these findings, it can be concluded that fire was widespread across the landscape.
Siskind, Taylor Michelle (2020). A Burnt Landscape: Forest Composition in Rabun County, Georgia, 1820 C.E.. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from