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Archival approaches to environment and lifeways: origins of sedentary agriculture at Neolithic Abu Hureyra, Syria, ~8600-7000 cal. BC

Dudgeon, K. (2023) Archival approaches to environment and lifeways: origins of sedentary agriculture at Neolithic Abu Hureyra, Syria, ~8600-7000 cal. BC. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00112110


The development of agriculture ~10,000 years ago in SW Asia, was a fundamental shift in human economy. During the pre-pottery Neolithic B (PPNB), ~8700-6500 cal. BC, plant and animal domestication spread and intensified, alongside technology such as plaster manufacturing. However, whether socio-economic changes were regional, local or site-specific, and how environment related to human resource selection is debated. This research aims to provide new evidence for humanplant-resource use at a site-specific level, using the environmental archaeological archives from PPNB Abu Hureyra, Middle Euphrates, Syria, an ~11ha, long-lived farming settlement. The taphonomy of different plant proxies means some plant types and parts are over or underrepresented in the archaeobotanical record. This research analyses phytoliths which preserve under different conditions to charred plant macro-fossils, previously studied at Abu Hureyra, to provide new perspectives on plant-uses. Phytoliths indicated a variety of vegetation was used consistently as the site expanded from ~8ha to ~11ha, indicating that the ecotonal location between steppe grassland and moist valley bottom facilitated resilient, sustainable resource management. Plants enter the archaeological record through a range of potential pathways. Therefore, this study evaluates whether some plant remains were deposited by animal dung through the integrated analysis of faecal spherulites and GC-MS to detect faecal biomarkers. Faecal spherulites were identified in ~80% of occupation residues from Abu Hureyra, including a hearth base, indicating the use of dung fuel, corroborated by faecal biomarkers detected by GC-MS. Faecal spherulites were also identified in construction materials, particularly gypsum plasters, indicating significant quantities of dung were used to maintain and expand the built environment. Analysis of the plaster components show remarkable continuity in the manufacturing process across phases of occupation. However, variations in the elemental composition of floor plasters suggest minor intra-site differences, possibly owing to fluctuations in resource availability and/or preferences at a household level.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Matthews, W.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Archaeology, Geography & Environmental Science
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Archaeology
ID Code:112110
Date on Title Page:September 2022


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