Geoecology and the archaeological record in the Marias river canyon


Credit: Photo by John W. Fisher Jr.

Boulder, Colo., USA: The Marias River canyon geoecosystem and its associated archaeological resources provide an excellent example of the complex interplay among geology, plant ecology, ungulate niches, and human activities on the landscape during late Holocene time. Understanding landscape complexity from both a geologic and an ecologic perspective reveals the influences of individual elements and their interaction with one another.

This new volume from The Geological Society of America reports the results of a multiyear, interdisciplinary investigation of the modern Marias River canyon in north-central Montana. This young, dynamic landscape is characterized by river downcutting, rapid hillslope erosion and mass movement, lateral river channel instability, sediment deposition, and human occupation.

The book's authors combine geologic, ecologic, and archaeologic approaches to examining the ways that Late Precontact peoples depended on the animal (bison) and plant resources of a changing landscape with erosion and sediment transport as dominant surficial processes. The researchers emphasize connections between erosion and deposition, plant community distribution, large mammal niches, and native peoples' place in the Marias River canyon geoecosystem.

James G. Schmitt, Montana State University, and his coauthors explain, "We have developed a broader and richer perception of the structure, composition, and scale of the Marias River valley as a geographic and ecological manifestation by employing geoecologic and geoarchaeologic approaches. The Marias River valley offered ancient peoples a distinctive constellation of resources and opportunities that did not exist in the prairie uplands."


Individual copies of the volume may be purchased through The Geological Society of America online store,, or by contacting GSA Sales and Service, [email protected]

Book editors of earth science journals/publications may request a review copy by contacting April Leo, [email protected]

Geoecology of the Marias River Canyon, Montana, USA: Landscape Influence on Human Use and Preservation of Late Holocene Archaeological and Vertebrate Remains by James G. Schmitt, John W. Fisher Jr., Michael P. Neeley, David F. Pac, Frankie D. Jackson, Scott J. Patterson, Jennifer L. Aschoff, and Stuart R. Challender

Geological Society of America Special Paper 528
SPE528, 53 p., $42.00; GSA member price $28.00
ISBN 978-0-8137-2528-4

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April Leo
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