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Climate, culture, and agriculture: Examining change in the Near East during the Bronze and Iron AgesAlexia Smith
This dissertation uses palaeoethnobotanical data to examine how Bronze and Iron Age (ca. 3300–550 B.C.) agricultural practices in the Near East varied geographically and temporally. Climatic data suggest that the area became warmer and drier around 2250 B.C.; the extent to which this affected food production is considered. Change is examined using a regional and site-based approach. Ninety-nine Early Bronze IV and Iron Age palaeoethnobotanical samples were analyzed from Tell Qarqur, a large multi-period tell in northwest Syria. The remains suggest a mixed agricultural economy based mainly upon free-threshing wheat, barley, and legumes such as lentils and, in particular, bitter vetch. Other economic plants include grapes, olives, and figs. Cereals are more abundant during the Iron Age. For the regional approach, published palaeoethnobotanical data from 59 sites in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and Palestine were entered into a relational database. All of the data contain useful qualitative information, but not all could be examined quantitatively. The CANOCO statistical package was used to conduct correspondence analysis on data from 19 sites using site location, sample age, method of retrieval, and context type as explanatory variables. The results of this study highlight clear differences in crop production and plant-use between sites that reflect both local economies and environmental differences across the region. Horticulture and mixed agronomy based on cereals and legumes predominated in the Levant, while in the northern Syrian steppe, plant remains suggest greater emphasis on animal rearing. Examining shifts in plant use through time is constrained by the uneven distribution of data across the region for each time period although limited comparisons can be made in northern Syria. Considerations of the impact of climatic change are further constrained by the current inability to establish contemporaneity between plant data and palaeoclimatic records. Intensive radiocarbon dating of palaeoethnobotanical samples would reduce this problem. Overall, the results suggest that non-economic taxa are good indicators of local environments and changing land-use strategies. Once geographical and temporal gaps in the dataset have been filled, it will be possible to use plant remains to examine climate change.
Health and environmental sciences; Social sciences; Biological sciences; Agriculture; Bronze Age; Climate; Culture; Iron Age; Near East; Paleoethnobotany; Archaeology; Environmental science; 0768:Environmental science; 0473:Agriculture; 0324:Archaeology
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