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Agricultural impact and political economy: Niche construction in the Gordion region, central Anatolia

Kealhofer, Lisa, Marsh, Ben
Quaternary international 2019 v.529 pp. 91-99
case studies, environmental degradation, intensive farming, land use, landscapes, politics, population growth, streams, watersheds, Turkey (country)
Narratives of societal collapse typically point to environmental degradation as an outcome of population increase or political breakdown. Here we present a case study from Gordion, central Anatolia, spanning the Chalcolithic to Ottoman period (c. 7000 yrs). We use a cultural version of Niche Construction Theory to interpret the timing and nature of landscape change. Recent work in the Gordion region by us and others demonstrates that major environmental change is only weakly connected to standard measures of agricultural intensification. Using detailed stream histories, coupled with survey-based settlement data, we show that the largest environmental changes predate significant settlement in small watersheds, while the largest regional-scale changes postdate high intensity settlement. By integrating multiple lines of land use evidence, we identify and date both environmental perturbations and possible counteractive niche construction strategies associated with political centralization. Here we suggest that counteractive strategies were critical in shaping the nonlinear patterns of environmental degradation.