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Landscape use and fruit cultivation in Petra (Jordan) from Early Nabataean to Byzantine times (2nd century BC–5th century AD)

Bouchaud, Charlene, Jacquat, Christiane, Martinoli, Danièle
Vegetation history and archaeobotany 2017 v.26 no.2 pp. 223-244
Ficus carica, Hordeum vulgare, Juglans regia, Lens culinaris, Olea europaea, Prunus armeniaca, Prunus persica, Triticum aestivum, Vitis vinifera, agricultural economics, apricots, archaeobotany, byproducts, charcoal, durum wheat, food availability, fruit growing, fuels, groves, hinterland, landscapes, olives, orchards, peaches, seeds, urbanization, walnuts, wild plants, wood, woodlands, Jordan
Archaeobotanical analyses of charred seeds, fruit and wood charcoal from the residential part of the ez-Zantur area at Petra, Jordan, provide new data on the agricultural economy and use of the landscape in this famous merchant Nabataean city from the middle of the 2nd century BC to the beginning of the 5th century AD. The study is based on analyses of 7,640 whole and fragmented seeds, pips and fruit stones and 624 charcoal fragments sampled from household deposits. The results show that the food supply was based on common Mediterranean cultivated taxa such as cereals (Hordeum vulgare, Triticum aestivum/durum), pulses (Lens culinaris) and fruit (Olea europaea, Ficus carica, Vitis vinifera), which were probably cultivated both in the city and its hinterland. The by-products from the processing of cereals and fruit trees played a significant role in fuel supply, supplementing woody wild plants obtained from rocky slopes and the desert valley. The variety of fuel resources shows a major capacity to manage complex supply networks and perhaps the rarity of natural woodland cover. The existence of orchards within the city centre and notably olive groves is indicated in the Early Nabataean period (mid 2nd century to mid 1st century BC) but they expanded during the Classical Nabataean period (mid 1st century BC to 1st century AD), probably reflecting specialised fruit growing. Unusual plant remains such as Prunus armeniaca (apricot), P. persica (peach) and Juglans regia (walnut) are considered to be social indicators of prosperity. These archaeobotanical results fit with others from this region and match with the urbanization and social dynamics of the city of Petra.