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Pre-agricultural plant management in the uplands of the central Zagros: the archaeobotanical evidence from Sheikh-e Abad

Whitlam, J., Bogaard, A., Matthews, R., Matthews, W., Mohammadifar, Y., Ilkhani, H. and Charles, M. (2018) Pre-agricultural plant management in the uplands of the central Zagros: the archaeobotanical evidence from Sheikh-e Abad. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, 27 (6). pp. 817-831. ISSN 0939-6314

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1007/s00334-018-0675-x

Abstract/Summary

Prior to the emergence of agriculture in southwest Asia, sedentarising human communities were experimenting with a diverse range of wild plant species over a prolonged period. In some cases, this involved the cultivation of species that would go on to be domesticated and form the foundation of future agricultural economies. However, many forms of plant use did not follow this trajectory, and in multiple places farming was only taken up later as an established ‘package’. In this paper, we present new archaeobotanical evidence from the Early Neolithic site of Sheikh-e Abad in the central Zagros of western Iran. Sheikh-e Abad is unique in being the only settlement known to date within southwest Asia that lies at an altitude above 1000m and which has occupation spanning the agricultural transition. Thus, it provides a rare opportunity to examine pre-agricultural plant management strategies in an upland zone. Our analyses of the plant remains from Sheikh-e Abad suggest that from its earliest occupation inhabitants were unconsciously ‘auditioning’ a suite of locally available wild grasses which ultimately were never domesticated. We discuss the possible reasons for this from a socio-ecological perspective, considering both the biology and ecology of the plant species in question, as well as the ways in which they were potentially managed.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Archaeology
ID Code:68880
Publisher:Springer

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