Anthropology Department Directory


Christopher I. Roos

Associate Professor

Ph.D. 2008 University of Arizona
Heroy Hall 444

  • Environmental Archaeology
  • Ecological Resilience
  • Applied Historical Ecology
  • Human Impacts on Ancient Environments
  • Fire Ecology and Pyrogeography
  • Climate Change and Paleoclimates
  • Behavioral Geoarchaeology
  • Southwest US, Northern Plains, and Oceania
  • Courses Taught

    ANTH 2302 - People of the Earth: Humanity's First Five Million Years
    ANTH 3318 - Prehistory of the Southwest
    ANTH 3384 - Paradise Lost? The Archaeology of Human-Environmental Impact (co-listed with CFA 3384)
    ANTH 6332 - Special Topics in Anthropology: Hunter-Gatherer Archaeology
    ANTH 6342 - Science and the Human Past

    Detailed website


    I am an environmental archaeologist with primary research interests in the long-term interactions between climate change, human land use, and landscape fires. My regional expertise is in the Southwestern US, but I maintain active research interests in the Northern Plains as well as Oceania. My research projects are necessarily interdisciplinary, often including dendrochronology, archaeology, ethnography, and sedimentary paleoecology. I received my PhD at the University of Arizona, where I maintain research collaborations. I joined the faculty at SMU as an Assistant Professor in 2010.

    My primary research interests are in (human) ecosystems ecology, particularly in the study of human impacts on social-ecological resilience and vulnerability. Sustainability issues, as framed by resilience theory, inform the questions that drive my research projects. How do human activities alter the response of ecosystems to climate change? What lessons can we learn for contemporary ecosystem management or restoration?

    I maintain additional research interests in archaeological method and theory, particularly the combination of principles from behavioral archaeology with earth sciences methods and techniques to reconstruct past human behaviors - an approach that I call behavioral geoarchaeology. To this end, I use stratigraphy, micromorphology, and soil/sediment chemistry to reconstruct the life histories of ancient dwellings, ritual structures, and community spaces.


    Jemez Fire & Humans in Resilient Ecosystems Project (Jemez FHiRE Project)

    This interdisciplinary project is a collaboration between scientists from SMU, Harvard, the University of Arizona, Simon Fraser University, and the USDA Fire Sciences Laboratory. We are partnering with the Pueblo of Jemez to investigate the long-term dynamics of human societies, forests, climate, and fire regimes in Southwestern ponderosa pine forests. Using ethnography, archaeology, paleoecology, dendrochronology, and dynamic ecological simulations, this project builds on the methodology I developed during my dissertation research. Other tribal partners from the Pueblo of Zuni and the White Mountain Apache and Hopi Tribes are working with us on the oral traditions, knowledge, and practice associated with living in ponderosa pine forests for multiple centuries. Our goal is to test hypotheses about human impacts on the resilience and vulnerability of pine forests and fire regimes as human population density increased in ancient agricultural communities. The Ancestral Jemez landscape was densely populated enough to  qualify as a "wildland-urban interface" for centuries; this is a land-use category with which contemporary policymakers struggle to manage forests and fire risks.

    This research is supported by a multi-year research award from the National Science Foundation's Dynamics of Coupled Natural-Human Systems program (GEO-1114898).

    Post-Lapita Fiji Project

    I am also collaborating with archaeologists from Ohio State University and Idaho State University to test ecological hypotheses about the economic and political transformations in Fiji at the end of the Lapita period roughly 2,500 years ago. At that time, Ancestral Fijians developed extensive inland agricultural systems. Our goal is to determine how these communities made decisions about economic trade-offs, movement of settlements, and the investment in agriculture in the context of environmental degradation, population growth, and intercommunity conflict.

    This research is supported by a multi-year research award from the National Science Foundation's  Archaeology program (BCS-1216312).

    Recent Publications

    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 

    Roos, Christopher I., Julie S. Field, and John V. Dudgeon
    2016 Anthropogenic Burning, Agricultural Intensification, and Landscape Transformation in Post-Lapita Fiji. Journal of Ethnobiology 36(3), in press.

    Roos, Christopher I.
    2015 Western Apache Pyrogenic Placemaking in the Mountains of Eastern Arizona. In Engineering Mountain Landscapes: An Archaeology of Social Investment, edited by M. Zedeño and L. Schreiber, pp. 116-125. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.

    Eren, Metin I., Christopher I. Roos, Brett Story, Noreen von Cramon-Taubadel, and Stephen J. Lycett
    2014 The Role of Raw Material Differences in Handaxe Shape Variation: An Experimental Assessment. Journal of Archaeological Science 49:472-487.

    Roos, Christopher I., David M.J.S Bowman, Jennifer K. Balch, Paulo Artaxo, William J. Bond, Mark A. Cochrane, Carla M. D'Antonio, Ruth S. DeFries, Fay H. Johnston, Meg A. Krawchuk, Christian A. Kull, Michelle Mack, Max A. Moritz, Stephen J. Pyne, Andrew C. Scott, and Thomas W. Swetnam

    Beck, Margaret E. and Christopher I. Roos
    2013 From Households to Middens: Refuse Deposition Patterns in Two Communities. In Power and Economy in Early Classic Period Hohokam Society: An Archaeological Perspective from the Marana Mound Site, edited by J. M. Bayman, S. K. Fish, and P. R. Fish, pp. 19-32. Arizona State Museum Archaeological Series 207, University of Arizona, Tucson.

    Roos, Christopher I.
    2013 Environmental Reconstruction. In the Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology, edited by C. Smith, pp. 2406-2416. Springer-Verlag, Heidelberg, Germany.

    Van Keuren, Scott and Christopher I. Roos
    2013 Geoarchaeological Evidence for Ritual Closure of a Kiva at Fourmile Ruin, Arizona. Journal of Archaeological Science, 40:615-625.

    Roos, Christopher I., and Thomas W. Swetnam
    2012 A 1,416-Year Reconstruction of Annual, Multi-decadal, and Centennial Variability in Area Burned for Ponderosa Pine forests of the Southern Colorado Plateau Region, Southwest USA. The Holocene 22(3): 281-290.

    Roos, Christopher I., and Kevin C. Nolan
    2012 Phosphates, Plowzones, and Plazas: A Minimally Invasive Approach to Infer Settlement Structure of Plowed Village Sites in the Midwestern USA. Journal of Archaeological Science 39: 23-32.

    Bowman, David M.J.S., Jennifer K. Balch, Paulo Artaxo, William J. Bond, Mark A. Cochrane, Carla M. D'Antonio, Ruth S. DeFries, Fay H. Johnston, John E. Keeley, Meg A. Krawchuk, Christian A. Kull, Michelle Mack, Max A. Moritz, Stephen J. Pyne, Christopher I. Roos, Andrew C. Scott, Navjot Sodhi, and Thomas W. Swetnam
    2011 The Human Dimension of Fire Regimes on Earth. Journal of Biogeography 38: 2223-2236.

    Eren, Metin I., Stephen J. Lycett, Christopher I. Roos, and C. Garth Sampson
    2011 Toolstone Constraints on Knapping Skill: Levallois Reduction with Two Different Raw Materials. Journal of Archaeological Science 38: 2731-2739.

    Roos, Christopher I., Alan P. Sullivan, III, and Calla MacNamee
    2010 Paleoecological Evidence for Indigenous Burning in the Upland Southwest. In The Archaeology of Anthropogenic Environments, edited by R. Dean, pp. 142-171. Center for Archaeological Investigations, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

    Memberships and Affiliations:
    Society for American Archaeology
    Society for Archaeological Sciences
    Association of American Geographers
    Association for Fire Ecology
    Ecological Society of America