Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2009

Degree Name

MS (Master of Science)

Degree In


First Advisor

Bettis, E Arthur, III

First Committee Member

Dorale, Jeffrey A

Second Committee Member

Hill, Matthew E


New pedologic, carbon isotope and phytolith analyses along with stratigraphic correlations to nearby archaeological sites record the spatial and temporal distribution of past vegetation patterns in the Sac Valley Archaeological District of southwest Missouri. Radiocarbon ages obtained from a soil core along Bear Creek, CB5, are related to those from Hajic et al. (1998, 2000) indicating that the CB5 location contains correlative middle Rodgers Shelter submember deposits. This relationship also indicates that sedimentation was approximately two times greater at the CB5 locality than at the Big Eddy (23CE426) archaeological site providing much higher temporal resolution for the alluvial history as well as the vegetation proxies during the early to middle Holocene.

Most midcontinent climate proxy records include indications of an early Holocene warm period when prairie replaced forests, then a cooler period in which trees dominated the landscape, followed by a warmer middle Holocene period when prairie vegetation was dominant. However, the CB5 δ13C profile of mixed C3/C4 vegetation indicates either that the vegetation at this location was not as sensitive to climate change or that this location was buffered from other influences, e.g. fires, which were critical to the expansion of prairie vegetation. On the other hand, the phytolith assemblages at CB5 indicate that there were periods with abundant C4 grasses even though the δ13C values indicate a dominance of C3 vegetation. This indicates that in the mixed forest/prairie ecotone interpretations of past vegetation from either carbon isotopes or phytolith assemblages alone may not accurately reflect patterns of vegetation.

A new core, DDY-KR2, was obtained from the Big Eddy (23CE426) archaeological site and a finer resolution of δ13C values at Big Eddy increased the detail about alluvial activity and revealed subtle changes in the vegetation. The vegetation types suggested by the δ13C values for DDY-KR2 are reflected in the phytolith assemblages validating their usefulness in reconstructing local vegetation history.


Alluvial, Geoarchaeology, Phytoliths, Stable Carbon Isotopes


viii, 107 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 102-107).


Copyright 2009 MaryKathryn Rocheford

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Geology Commons