Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Historical Archaeology

First Advisor

Heather B. Trigg

Second Advisor

Stephen W. Silliman

Third Advisor

Judith Zeitlin


Using palynological data, this project explores how changing land use practices associated with successive waves of colonial settlement shaped local environments in La Cienega, New Mexico. This is accomplished by linking collected pollen data to known historic occupations beginning with pre-colonial Puebloan populations and continuing through the present day, encompassing both Hispanic and Anglo-American colonial occupations. The data were collected from a single sediment core taken at a small pond located within La Cienega. Pollen from 12 samples was analyzed, providing a 600-year record of changes within local plant communities. The collected data are interpreted in relation to known archaeological sites within La Cienega as well as historical accounts of colonial settlement and practice within the region. Ultimately, the pollen data reveal complex and subtle changes to the landscape that run counter to other studies of environmental change in colonial settings, which stress large scale change and degradation associated with European colonial practice. Instead, the data from La Cienega show persistence within local ecosystems and land-use practice occurring alongside changes influenced by new agro-pastoral regimes and demographic change. This draws into question existing models that stress discontinuity between pre-colonial and colonial societies, while also emphasizing the role of the physical environment in mediating the colonial experience. By engaging environmental data, this research highlights the complex relationships that exist between human communities and their landscape, while also discussing the particularities of colonial settlement in the American Southwest. Furthermore it highlights the efficacy of palynology to aid in understanding the ecology of colonial settlement.