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The desert and the sown: Nomad–farmer interactions in the Wadi Faynan, southern Jordan

Barker, G.
Journal of arid environments 2012 v.86 pp. 82-96
climate change, deserts, farmers, herding, landscapes, mining, pastoralism, Jordan, Middle East
The paper discusses the changing relationship between pastoral nomads and farmers, one of the recurring themes in the history of the arid Near East. In many parts of this region that history has often been characterized in terms of changing cycles of sedentary farming and pastoralism, linked respectively to notions of cultural florescence and collapse. The paper reviews the complex history of cultivation, herding, and industrial activity (copper mining and processing) that has been established for the Wadi Faynan in southern Jordan, a desertic region used today largely by Bedouin herding groups, from the Early Bronze Age to the present day. As recent studies indicate for the Negev region as a whole, it concludes that notions of simplistic cycles in nomad–sedentary relations are unhelpful: historical contingency played a far more important role than the physical landscape and the changes effected to it by climatic shifts over the past 6000 years.