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Archaeobotanical inference of intermittent settlement and agriculture at Middle Bronze Age Zahrat adh-Dhra'1, Jordan

Fall, Patricia L., Falconer, Steven E., Porson, Steven
Journal of archaeological science: Reports 2019 v.26 pp. 101884
Bayesian theory, archaeobotany, hinterland, landscapes, mass spectrometry, models, seeds, urbanization, villages, Jordan
Analysis of botanical evidence excavated from Zahrat adh-Dhra'1, Jordan elucidates intermittent settlement and agriculture on the geographical and social margins of Middle Bronze Age society in the Southern Levant. Zahrat adh-Dhra'1, lying just east of the Dead Sea, provides data from multiple discontinuous phases of occupation, particularly in comparison to evidence from the continuously occupied Middle Bronze Age village of Tell el-Hayyat in the agricultural heartland of the Jordan Valley. We focus our analysis on taxonomic frequencies and ubiquities for carbonized seeds recovered from 88 flotation samples from Zahrat adh-Dhra'1 and 152 samples from Tell el-Hayyat. Both settlements emphasized cereal cultivation, with a greater accompanying proliferation of wild and weedy taxa on the anthropogenic landscape around Tell el-Hayyat. In contrast, lower taxonomic ubiquities, many of which decline through time, reflect less consistent seed deposition and agricultural practices in accordance with episodic habitation at Zahrat adh-Dhra'1 on the more sparsely settled and impacted hinterland of the Dead Sea Plain. In concert, a suite of evidence, including dispersed architecture, Bayesian modeling of calibrated Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) ages and comparative analysis of archaeobotanical evidence, illuminates Zahrat adh-Dhra'1 as an unprecedented example of discontinuous agrarian settlement on the fringes of Levantine Middle Bronze Age urbanized society.