Archaeological Perspectives on Fire and People: From Ancient Neanderthals to Contemporary California

Panel Discussion | September 27 | 6:30-8 p.m. |  Sibley Auditorium, Bechtel Engineering Center

 Kent Lightfoot, Professor, Anthropology, UC Berkeley; Ruth Tringham, Professor Emerita, Anthropology, UC Berkeley; Linn Gassaway, Heritage Program Manager, Lassen National Forest; Tim Gill, Visiting Scholar, Archaeological Research Facility

 John Holson, Principal, Pacific Legacy, Inc.

 Archaeological Research Facility

In California and across the world, catastrophic fires each year scorch millions of acres of land, destroy human lives and property, and cost hundreds of millions of dollars to battle. Yet people have not always lived in dread of conflagrations. The long relationship between people and fire is complex and changing, where fire not only brings destruction, but can also work for environmental renewal and serve communities as expressions of spirituality. This timely event brings together experts from UC Berkeley’s Archaeological Research Facility and the US Forest Service in a panel discussion exploring what we might learn from humanity's long experience with fire. Panelists will discuss the diverse and changing impacts of fire on human populations and environments, the ways people have faced the threat of fire, and how they have manipulated fire for power and survival. The panel will highlight how California’s rich archaeological heritage, while now threatened by fire, can help us learn to better confront new challenges.

Panelists include: Dr. Tim Gill, who will discuss early prehistoric control and use of fire, and the possibility that fire played a key role in human evolution; Prof. Ruth Tringham, whose research in prehistoric Southeast Europe shows how fires were intentionally set in houses to perhaps mark the end of a household cycle; Prof. Kent Lightfoot, who will discuss his work on indigenous fire practices in California and what we can learn from them; and Dr. Linn Gassaway, a fire archaeologist with the US Forest Service, who will talk about the impacts of fire on archaeological and cultural resources. Moderator John Holson (Pacific Legacy, Inc.) brings expertise from thirty years of cultural resources management work in California and Hawaii.

The program is open to the public at no charge.

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 All Audiences