The southwest Jemez Mountains in central New Mexico have been utilized continuously for the past 2,000 years, and by circa 1300 CE a network of large village sites and fieldhouses created a significant human footprint on this fire-prone landscape. Prehistoric land use significantly influenced forest structure, fuel properties, ignitions, and thus landscape fire dynamics. Evidence from tree-rings, fire scars, and charcoal sediments suggests that for much of the period prior to ca. 1900 Jemez ponderosa pine forests sustained frequent, low-severity surface fires. However, human activities during a period of dense occupation may have significantly altered fire regimes, but without eroding the long-term persistence (resilience) of ponderosa pine forests. We use a coupled natural-human systems process model, informed by rich archaeological, ethnographic, and dendroarchaeological data sets, to assess the magnitude and importance of human influence on fire regimes and ecological resilience. Results highlight the complexity and extent of prehistoric engineered landscapes, and identify future human activities and climate conditions likely to trigger ecosystem instability.