Native Ecosystem Management with Fire
The buried deposits at Crumps Sink contained a well-preserved paleoenvironmental record. It held evidence of Native American use of fire to manage ecosystems in the Sinkhole Plain region of Kentucky.
Analysis of soil samples documented an increase in the amount of ash toward the end of the Middle Archaic, around 3500 BC. These ash levels increased throughout the Late Archaic, ending around 1000 BC. Archaeologists believe that these fires were intentionally set by Native Americans to manage vegetation, and that their repeated setting of these fires was responsible for creating the Big Barrens grasslands of Kentucky.
Native Americans likely used fire to promote the growth of the nut-bearing trees, such as hickory and black walnut, they relied on for food; to expand forest edge areas to attract animals, such as deer and turkey; and later, to open-up areas for growing starchy- or oily-seeded native cultigens, such as maygrass, sunflower, and goosefoot, in gardens.