Evidence for plant exploitation and vegetation history from three Early Neolithic pre-pottery sites on the Euphrates (Syria)

Abstract

Archaeobotanical results based on a limited number of samples from three aceramic sites dating from 9800 to 7800 B.P., which are under excavation in the valley of the Middle Euphrates, are discussed. The finds are presented simply by presence, and are compared to the contemporary vegetation and finds from similar sites. Carbonised plant remains recovered by flotation from levels dated to between 9800 and 9200 B.P. (Dja'de and Jerf al Ahmar) indicate that wild cereals (einkorn wheat, rye and barley) and pulses (lentils, pea and bitter vetch) were exploited. Other plants such as wild grasses, Pistacia, wild almond and oak, suggest that the local vegetation provided a rich diversity of resources. A study of possible weed taxa is being carried out in order to see whether this assemblage could be used to identify the cultivation of morphologically wild cereals for this period. Ninth millennium B.P. levels at Halula see the appearance of domestic crops such as emmer, naked wheat and barley, but wild-type cereals persist. The cultivars appear to have been introduced from elsewhere and later ninth millennium B.P. species include olive and flax. Ash, vine, maple, plane, alder and elm from the gallery forest, wild rye, wild einkorn, deciduous oak, wild almond, Pistacia, and Pyrus, from the hinterland, indicate cooler conditions.

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Willcox, G. Evidence for plant exploitation and vegetation history from three Early Neolithic pre-pottery sites on the Euphrates (Syria). Veget Hist Archaebot 5, 143–152 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00189445

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Key words

  • Euphrates
  • Early Neolithic
  • Cereals
  • Natural vegetation
  • Palaeoclimate