This report analyzes various depositional environments in three archaeologically significant areas of the Colorado River corridor in Grand Canyon.
Archaeological features are built on and buried by fluvial, aeolian, and locally derived sediment, representing a complex interaction between geologic and cultural history. These analyses provide a basis for determining the potential influence of Glen Canyon Dam operations on selected archaeological sites and thus for guiding dam operations in order to facilitate preservation of cultural resources.
This report presents initial results of a joint effort between geologists and archaeologists to evaluate the significance of various depositional processes and environments in the prehistoric formation and modern preservation of archaeological sites along the Colorado River corridor in Grand Canyon National Park. Stratigraphic investigations of the Palisades, Lower Comanche, and Arroyo Grande areas of Grand Canyon yield detailed information regarding the sedimentary history at these locations. Reconstruction of past depositional settings is critical to a thorough understanding of the geomorphic and stratigraphic evolution of these three archaeologically significant areas. This examination of past sedimentary environments allows the relative significance of fluvial, aeolian, debris-fan, and slope-wash sedimentary deposits to be identified at each site. In general the proportion of fluvial sediment (number and thickness of flood deposits) is shown to decrease away from the river, and locally derived sediment becomes more significant. Flood sequences often occur as 'couplets' that contain a fluvial deposit overlain by an interflood unit that reflects reworking of fluvial sediment at the land surface by wind and local runoff. Archaeological features are built on and buried by sediment of various depositional environments, implying a complex interaction between geologic and cultural history. Such field analysis, which combines geological and archaeological information and techniques, can provide a basis for future determination of the effects of Glen Canyon Dam operations on selected areas of the river corridor. This knowledge is essential to the development of preservation strategies for cultural resources in Grand Canyon.