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Ancient Fires at Cliff Palace Pond

Life at an Early Woodland (ca. 400 B.C.) rockshelter at Keener Point Knob in the Summer.The video begins with a description of how fires are caused and why the U.S.D.A. Forest Service sets them (these kinds of purposefully-set fires are called prescribed burns). Setting of fires may be new to the Forest Service, but it's not new to Indian people, as Jerry Wolfe, an elder of the Eastern Band of Cherokee, explains.

Setting fires represents a change in how the Forest Service manages the forest. This change is based on research that shows fire has been an integral part of Kentucky's forests for thousands of years. Recent research at Keener Point Knob in Jackson County, Kentucky has shown that American Indians were the first forest managers and that fire was their tool.

Birds-eye view of Keener Point Knob, showing Native American gardening and fire. Cecil Ison, archaeologist with the Daniel Boone National Forest, takes the viewer to Cliff Palace, a large rockshelter below the Knob where prehistoric people lived. Here we see the stairsteps prehistoric people carved into the rockface, and a petroglyph (geometric design) they pecked into a rock. Two artist reconstructions show what life in the rockshelter may have been like in the past.

We also visit Cliff Palace Pond on top of Keener Point, and Paul Delcourt, paleoecologist at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, who describes how information in pond sediments provided a glimpse into the prehistoric use of fire. The video explains the 10,000-year history of human culture, environment, and fire use at Keener Pont Knob, showing how, as native peoples turned to gardening, their use of fire to clear spots for their gardens changed the face of the forest. An artist's reconstruction of prehistoric Keener Point helps the viewer imagine what the place may have looked like 2,000 years ago.Life at a Late Archaic (ca. 1500 B.C.) rockshelter at Keener Point Knob in the Fall.

The video concludes with discussions by Delcourt and Rex Mann, fire manager for the Daniel Boone National Forest, about the importance of fire in the forests and how researching the past can inform the present and help us plan for the future.

The video also contains beautiful shots of the Eastern Kentucky landscape, aerial views of fires and Keener Point Knob, and stunning images of fires, firestorms, and prescribed burns.

Fall harvest of plants at Keener Point Knob.Artist reconstructions of life at Keener Point Knob: Artwork painted by Rex Robinson.  Support for the preparation of the artwork was provided by the Kentucky Arts Council and the USDA Forest Service.


Last Updated 6/6/2008