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Dr. Jennifer Ramsay (Anthropology) publishes book chapter titled, 'Human Population Increase and its Effects on the Arid Landscape of Southern Jordan: An Archaeobotanical Study'

Dr. Ramsay publishes an invited chapter in "The Socio-economic History and Material Culture of the Roman and Byzantine Near East", Essays in Honor of S. Thomas Parker - Edited by W. Ward. Gorgias Press 2017.


The aim of this archaeobotanical study is to gain an understanding of how population increase affected the scale of agricultural production during the Nabataean, Roman and Byzantine periods in the arid regions of southern Jordan. The examination of archaeobotanical material from the sites of Petra, Humayma, Bir Madhkur, Aila and ‘Ayn Gharandal provide evidence of local agriculture in the form of cereal grains, chaff and associated weed species. These analyses have identified at least two varieties of wheat (Triticum aestivum, T. aestivo-compactum and cf. T. durum), barley (Hordeum vulgare), rye (Secale sp.) and millet (Setaria sp.), as well as several legumes, such as lentils (Lens culinaris), chick pea (Cicer arietinum) and bitter vetch (Vicia ervilla). There is also considerable evidence in the assemblages of crop by-products (e.g. chaff, culm and rachis segments) and weeds specific to crop fields (e.g. Lolium temulentum, Chenopodium album, Malva sp. and Medicago sp.), which supports the likelihood of successful local agricultural in this arid region occurring in antiquity. The environmental conditions of the southern desert and highland regions of southern Jordan that encompasses the study sites has not changed significantly since the Nabataean, Roman and Byzantine periods and yet the sites are either surrounded by ancient agricultural fields or show likely evidence of local production (e.g. Aila and ‘Ayn Gharandal). It appears that water management in antiquity in southern Jordan was more advanced than is currently recognized since there is a lack of modern cereal agriculture in these regions. The results of this study aid in illuminating the changes to the landscape of southern Jordan brought about by local agricultural production that would have been necessary to support a rise in population brought about by an increase in Roman military presence during the Roman/ period, as well as the production potential of dry-land agricultural techniques in such arid environments.

contact: Jennifer Ramsay (
submitted: Wed, Nov 29, 2017 by jramsay
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