Understanding Human and Landscape Responses to Regional Climate and Environmental Changes in Central Montana

2014 to 2015

An ongoing six-year archeological study in the Big Belt Mountains of central Montana is producing an excellent (6000+) year record of human occupation, resource use, and response to environmental change across three elevation-ecological zones within one basin. This detailed local-scale investigation will be expanded and integrated with high resolution lake sediment records (pollen /charcoal) and alluvial fan stratigraphy in order to construct a more comprehensive regional picture of Holocene environmental change of the region. An integrated landscape-scale approach will provide a better understanding of the linkages between climate, vegetation, fire, geomorphology and early human land-use patterns in an important and understudied climatic and ecological transition zone between Rocky Mountain Front and Great Plains. This study fills an important geographic gap in the existing paleoclimate and archeological records, and may provide broader insights on orographic influences of the Rockies on Pacific derived moisture across western North America.

The main objectives of this one-year  pilot study are to: 1) support the paleo-ecological component of archeological investigations, 2) conduct reconnaissance study of kettle lakes and assess suitability for providing Holocene pollen and charcoal records, and 3) conduct a reconnaissance study of alluvial fan  and floodplain stratigraphy on both sides of the Big Belts.

IoE Team: 


MSU IoE Office

Montana State University
605 Leon Johnson Hall
Bozeman, MT 59717
(406) 994-2374
MSU Director: Bruce Maxwell

UM IoE Office

The Universityi of Montana

The University of Montana
Davidson Honors College
Missoula, MT 59812
(406) 243-6058
UM Director: Maury Valett


Montana University System

Montana University System

Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education
2500 Broadway Street
Helena, MT 59620