Subsistence Strategies and Plant Domestication during the Near Eastern Neolithic Transition

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Dokumentart: PhDThesis
Date: 2018-07-05
Language: English
Faculty: 7 Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät
Department: Geographie, Geoökologie, Geowissenschaft
Advisor: Riehl, Simone (PD Dr.)
Day of Oral Examination: 2018-06-20
DDC Classifikation: 300 - Social sciences, sociology and anthropology
550 - Earth sciences
580 - Plants (Botany)
Keywords: Archäobotanik , Neolithikum , Domestikation , Fruchtbarer Halbmond
Other Keywords:
Aceramic Neolithic
Fertile Crescent
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The present dissertation project focuses on the reconstruction of plant-based subsistence prac-tices at the aceramic Neolithic site of Chogha Golan in the foothills of the central Zagros Mountains of Iran. A team of the Tuebingen-Iranian Stone Age Research Project (TISARP) excavated two trenches at the site in 2009 and 2010, recovering abundant inorganic and or-ganic remains for studying the site’s occupation history. Radiocarbon dating soon made clear that Chogha Golan was first settled during the 12th millennium and occupied until ca. 9,600 cal BP. Major goals therefore include the study of subsistence strategies through time and the comparison of the local socioeconomic record with regional and supra-regional developments. In building upon previous analyses, I studied macrobotanical remains from the mid-sequence (~10,600 cal BP) to the final settlement phase. This period is of major importance for investi-gating Near Eastern agricultural origins, because morphologically domesticated plants ap-peared throughout the Levant and central Anatolia between ca. 10,700 and 10,200 cal BP. At Chogha Golan, chaff remains of non-shattering emmer wheat only appeared towards 9,800 cal BP, marking the beginnings of crop cultivation at the site. A major question thus focuses on possible resource management strategies prior to the adoption of emmer wheat. A high abundance of wild grasses, including wild barley (Hordeum spontaneum), Aegilops sp., wild oats (Avena spp.) and many other medium to large-seeded taxa, characterize the complete sequence. In light of the long occupation history and the continuous exploitation of these wild grasses, the active management of local grasslands likely assured the long-term use of these important food resources before emmer was cultivated. These results resemble patterns from many other sites in the Zagros arc, highlighting the importance of wild grasses for local pre-agricultural subsistence strategies. This is in contrast with patterns from the Levantine corridor, where Early Holocene groups heavily focused on a few wild cereal species, which they presumably cultivated for approximately 1,000 years before morphological domestication traits became fixed. This protracted domestication process has often been interpreted from an economic and environmental perspective, but I suggest a significant influence of the slow development of social organizations to be responsible for these patterns. With an emphasis on the emergence of households and individual ownership systems, I suggest that only private food storage allowed a group of cultivators to maintain a selection chain that eventually gave rise to domesticated plants. In this perspective, the social organization of a community is of crucial importance to understand patterns in the emergence of plant cultivation and domestication, which we must integrate in the available explanatory frameworks.

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