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KNAU and Arizona News

Arizona fires sweep land rich with ancient sites, artifacts

Indigenous Wildfires
Paul Dawson/U.S. Forest Service via AP
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In this photo provided by the U.S. Forest Service, Jason Nez, center, talks to wildland fire personnel working a blaze in northern Arizona in 2021. Nez is a Navajo archaeologist and firefighter who advises fire officials on how to protect archaeological resources.

Wildfires in northern Arizona are crossing land rich with signs of human existence through centuries.

The vast landscape marked by rugged mountains, high desert and towering ponderosa pines is dense with archaeological sites and artifacts.

As efforts to fight wildfires advance, crews are doing more to avoid or minimize damage from bulldozers and other modern-day firefighting tools.

Archaeologists say those efforts ensure ancient tools and dwellings unique to the arid U.S. Southwest are protected for future generations.

Navajo archaeologist Jason Nez says the work also helps educate those on the fire line about the continued presence of Indigenous peoples.