Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 329–340 | Cite as

Vegetation development and human occupation in the Damascus region of southwestern Syria from the Late Pleistocene to Holocene

  • Katleen DeckersEmail author
  • Simone Riehl
  • Emma Jenkins
  • Arlene Rosen
  • Andrey Dodonov
  • Aleksandra N. Simakova
  • Nicholas J. Conard
Original Article


Rockshelter Baaz in the Damascus region of Syria provided a variety of botanical remains from the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene period. These remains provide new information about the vegetation evolution in this region. The earliest occupational levels correspond with a moisture peak during the Late Pleistocene, between ca. 34–32 kyr b.p., when pine expanded. The next occupations took place during extreme arid conditions, ca. 23–21 kyr b.p., and probably during the Last Glacial Maximum when a steppe vegetation was established. The occupation level of the Younger Dryas, represented by Natufian remains, suggests that the area had been covered by almond-pistachio steppe, similar to later periods of the Early Holocene, and was probably located just outside the range of dense wild cereal stands. There is no drastic impact of the Younger Dryas visible on the vegetation in the botanical remains. The lack of fruits and seeds at Baaz indicates that the site was more likely to have been a temporary hunting post rather than a plant processing site for much of its history. It is ideally suited to this purpose because of its location over the Jaba′deen Pass and the associated springs. However, archaeological remains from the Natufian period, suggest that the site was more permanently occupied during this time.


Anthracology Phytolith Archaeobotany Palynology Younger Dryas Natufian Late Palaeolithic 



We would like to thank the Landesstiftung Baden-Württemberg, the Belgische Stichting Roeping, and the Universitätsbund Tübingen for the financial support for this study. The phytolith research was possible thanks to the Leverhulme foundation. Moreover, many thanks are due to the Syrian Department of Antiquities (especially to Mohamed al-Masri) and to the excavation team members, especially Philipp Drechsler, Felix Hillgruber, Knut Bretzke and Andrew Kandel. Jenkins and Rosen would like to thank the Leverhume Trust for their financial support.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katleen Deckers
    • 1
    Email author
  • Simone Riehl
    • 1
  • Emma Jenkins
    • 2
  • Arlene Rosen
    • 3
  • Andrey Dodonov
    • 4
  • Aleksandra N. Simakova
    • 4
  • Nicholas J. Conard
    • 5
  1. 1.University of Tübingen, Naturwissenschaftliche ArchäologieTübingenGermany
  2. 2.University of Reading, School of Human and Environmental SciencesReadingUK
  3. 3.Institute of ArchaeologyUniversity College London, University College LondonLondonUK
  4. 4.Geological InstituteRussian Academy of SciencesMoscowRussia
  5. 5.University of Tübingen, Ältere Urgeschichte und QuartärökologieTübingenGermany

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