Landscape and Human-environment Interaction in the Middle Habur Drainage from the Neolithic Period to the Bronze Age - article ; n°1 ; vol.28, pg 43-53

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Travaux de la Maison de l'Orient méditerranéen - Année 1998 - Volume 28 - Numéro 1 - Pages 43-53
This paper will explore the ecological dynamics of long-term interaction between the open steppe and occupied lands (espace naturel, espace habité) through a discussion of the plant resources used and discarded in archaeological contexts. Plant remains from cultivated and wild plants have been recovered from numerous Middle Habur excavations. These remains provide significant insight into how the landscape and its resources were used through the long trajectory of human occupation. This paper will also draw upon these insights to address how a changing landscape may have been perceived and access to resources may have shifted during different periods of occupation at the steppe margins.
Cet article va s'intéresser à la dynamique écologique de l'interaction à long terme entre la steppe ouverte et les terres occupées (espace naturel, espace habité) au moyen de l'étude des plantes utilisées et rejetées dans des contextes archéologiques. Des restes de plantes cultivées et sauvages ont été récupérés sur plusieurs chantiers de fouilles sur le moyen Khabour. Ces restes nous fournissent des indications claires sur la manière dont le territoire et ses ressources naturelles étaient utilisées au cours de la longue histoire de l'occupation humaine de cette région. Partant de ces données, cet article se demandera aussi comment un territoire en transformation peut avoir été perçu par ses occupants et comment l'accès aux ressources naturelles a pu avoir été modifié durant les différentes périodes d'occupation de la marge steppique.
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Source : Persée ; Ministère de la jeunesse, de l’éducation nationale et de la recherche, Direction de l’enseignement supérieur, Sous-direction des bibliothèques et de la documentation.

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Joy McCorriston
Landscape and Human-environment Interaction in the Middle
Habur Drainage from the Neolithic Period to the Bronze Age
In: Lyon : Maison de l'Orient et de la Méditerranée Jean Pouilloux, 1998. pp. 1-2. (Travaux de la Maison de l'Orient
méditerranéen)
Abstract
This paper will explore the ecological dynamics of long-term interaction between the open steppe and occupied lands (espace
naturel, espace habité) through a discussion of the plant resources used and discarded in archaeological contexts. Plant remains
from cultivated and wild plants have been recovered from numerous Middle Habur excavations. These remains provide
significant insight into how the landscape and its resources were used through the long trajectory of human occupation. This
paper will also draw upon these insights to address how a changing landscape may have been perceived and access to
resources may have shifted during different periods of occupation at the steppe margins.
Résumé
Cet article va s'intéresser à la dynamique écologique de l'interaction à long terme entre la steppe ouverte et les terres occupées
(espace naturel, espace habité) au moyen de l'étude des plantes utilisées et rejetées dans des contextes archéologiques. Des
restes de plantes cultivées et sauvages ont été récupérés sur plusieurs chantiers de fouilles sur le moyen Khabour. Ces restes
nous fournissent des indications claires sur la manière dont le territoire et ses ressources naturelles étaient utilisées au cours de
la longue histoire de l'occupation humaine de cette région. Partant de ces données, cet article se demandera aussi comment un
territoire en transformation peut avoir été perçu par ses occupants et comment l'accès aux ressources naturelles a pu avoir été
modifié durant les différentes périodes d'occupation de la marge steppique.
Citer ce document / Cite this document :
McCorriston Joy. Landscape and Human-environment Interaction in the Middle Habur Drainage from the Neolithic Period to the
Bronze Age. In: Lyon : Maison de l'Orient et de la Méditerranée Jean Pouilloux, 1998. pp. 1-2. (Travaux de la Maison de l'Orient
méditerranéen)
http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/mom_1274-6525_1998_act_28_1_1098LANDSCAPE AND HUMAN-ENVIRONMENT
INTERACTION IN THE MIDDLE HABUR DRAINAGE
FROM THE NEOLITHIC PERIOD TO THE BRONZE AGE
J. McCORRISTON
RESUME. - Cet article va s'intéresser à la dynamique écologique de l'interaction à long terme entre la steppe ouverte et les terres occupées (espace
naturel, espace habité) au moyen de l'étude des plantes utilisées et rejetées dans des contextes archéologiques. Des restes de plantes cultivées et
sauvages ont été récupérés sur plusieurs chantiers de fouilles sur le moyen Khabour. Ces restes nous fournissent des indications claires sur la manière
dont le territoire et ses ressources naturelles étaient utilisées au cours de la longue histoire de l'occupation humaine de cette région. Partant de ces
données, cet article se demandera aussi comment un territoire en transformation peut avoir été perçu par ses occupants et comment l'accès aux
ressources naturelles a pu avoir été modifié durant les différentes périodes d'occupation de la marge steppique.
Mots clés: agriculture préhistorique, paysage, paléobotanique, Syrie, Mésopotamie, néolithique, âge du Bronze, pastoralisme spécialisé.
ABSTRACT. - This paper will explore the ecological dynamics of long-term interaction between the open steppe and occupied lands (espace naturel,
espace habité) through a discussion of the plant resources used and discarded in archaeological contexts. Plant remains from cultivated and wild
plants have been recovered from numerous Middle Habur excavations. These remains provide significant insight into how the landscape and its
resources were used through the long trajectory of human occupation. This paper will also draw upon these insights to address how a changing land
scape may have been perceived and access to resources may have shifted during different periods of occupation at the steppe margins.
Key-words: prehistoric agriculture, landscape, archaeobotany, Syria, Mesopotamia, Neolithic, Bronze Age, specialized pastoralism.
INTRODUCTION to alter the natural environment. Technology has been
conceptually situated as the fulcrum of human-environ
ment interaction. It is technology, evident from the first Recent paradigms in archaeology offer new ways in stone tools in Africa, that allows us to produce food, conwhich archaeologists focusing on cultural histories struct villages, and build cities. might explore past human experiences in greater Syria.
Natural space does not remain "natural" once it is This paper examines the concept of landscape as a cul
inhabited by humans. Yet a dichotomy established turally constructed space and explores a contrast with
between natural and inhabited space blurs somewhat human- environment histories, a theme with which most
when viewed with a longer temporal lens. Evolutionary Near Eastern archaeologists are more familiar. These dif
ecology offers a framework in which to consider humans ferent theoretical approaches have interesting applica
and their environments conjoined in continuous and histions when one considers landscape and human interac
torically conditioned change. In recent decades we have tion with the environment of the Middle Habur region in
recognized a profound dynamic of human occupation, in northern Mesopotamia.
the alteration of environments, landforms, vegetative "Espace naturel, espace habité." Does the theme not
associations, regional and global climates, and the funsuggest a contrast in perspective, a fundamental dichoto damentally historical process of human ecosystem my between nature and culture that pervades and shapes development. Today's African grasslands are the natural the debate about the human condition, our origins and spaces in which conservation biologists, tourists, poacheour place in the world? Although natural space can also rs, pastoralists, park rangers and politicians contend for be inhabited, that is, briefly occupied by humans, archae natural resources. Yet these same "natural " grasslands
ologists generally share a deeply embedded (Western) have been created through hundreds of thousands of view of nature as somehow the antithesis of the space in years of human occupation, manipulation, and interacwhich one dwells. This dichotomy, embraced by Western tion. Syria's steppe and cultivable lands are substan livehumanists and sharpened through a contemporary, ly, if not perhaps equally, an environment shaped by urban, industrial perspective, is nevertheless reified by human use. Before we can effectively discuss natural our archaeologically constructed views of the human and inhabited spaces, then, we need to establish both a past in which we emphasize technologies—as fundament perspective— whose?— on space and a temporal frameal expressions of human identity and ethnicity1 and as work—historical or static?— in which to consider it. changing economic adaptations2. Technology allows us
1961 (2) BINFORD, 1973. (1) BORDES,
TMO28 © Canadian BCSMS Society for 33 Mesopotamia!) (Québec, 1998) Studies © Maison de l'Orient Módilerr; méen 43 naturel, espace habité en Syrie du Nord (10c-2e millénaires av. J.-C.) Espace
One of the most difficult problems in a study of archaeological past. While they admittedly draw upon
space in prehistory arises with an attempt to draw on dif different ways of knowing, our understanding of human
ferent approaches, as attempted here. If one is to distin prehistory may be enhanced on the one hand by defining
guish between natural space and inhabited space in the quantified, bounded, non-overlapping natural and inhabi
past, one must establish defining criteria by which to ted spaces and on the other hand through a critique of
the one "reading" of environment that positivism recognize each in the prehistoric record. There are both
etic and ernie definitions of space. Western archaeologic affords. Archaeologists practicing in a postmodernist tra
al approaches have overwhelmingly preferred an etic dition decry an approach that a priori depicts environ
definition in which humans everywhere exist in an ment as a pre-existing surface or container in which
abstract landscape, the characteristics of which may be human action occurs6. Yet review of several postmode
described in universalizing language of "-- ologies" such rnist landscape archaeologies quickly shows that a
statement of environmental setting and subsistence as ecology, geomorphology, and climatology3. Within
these globalizing frameworks, regional and local env reconstruction, even if brief, precedes other attempts at
ironmental features such as water availability, plant dis hermeneutical analysis7. Although this paper will not
tributions, and seasonal cycles operate as quantifiable fully explore the latter way of knowing in the Habur, it
and objective dimensions to constrain human adapta is through pursuing both approaches and a dialectic
between them that we can reach a fuller appreciation of tions within an evolving ecosystem.
human prehistory. Yet there is a growing postmodernist literature
advocating ernie spacial perspectives and their signif
icance in prehistory. Recent studies of human landscape
have emphasized its constructed aspects and its culturall EXPERIENCING HUMAN SPACE
y, indeed individually, contingent characteristics4. IN PREHISTORY
Landscape is experienced and constituted by action and
ascribed meaning. Not everyone sees it exactly the same Once an environmental setting— an abstract space- way, yet shared perceptions of landscape are cultural has been reconstructed for a given period or moment in landscapes. In landscape, human space is defined and the past, prehistorians may turn to the challenge of connected through action and memory. Whereas an etic "reading" the human space constructed by prehistoric perspective views abstract space as a container for peoples. Given the dynamic of evolutionary ecology and human action, an ernie approach recognizes time and the profound changes that occur in environments over space as components of action. Both time and space are time, there can be no experiencing human space or created, reproduced, and changed through the meaningf ancient landscape until an abstract space has been reconul action of agents5. structed. This process at minimum evaluates for changes
There are therefore two lines of inquiry— the scient to prominent locales, axes of visibility for major fea
ific and the hermeneutical-on space in Syrian prehisto tures, disruptions to paths and major routes— all highly
ry and history. These are two seemingly incompatible significant in human-created landscapes and the meani
views of space— the global and the local, the scientific ngs behind them. But other components of human land
and the experienced, the abstract and the contextualized, scapes frequently include relationships with plants and
the etic and the ernie. How do we as archaeologists rec animals, and therefore the distribution, availability and
oncile such approaches to natural and inhabited space in seasonality, abstract parameters of perception, in short,
the past? must also be reconstructed to the best of scientific capab
ility.
My own experience of cultural construction of land
RECONSTRUCTING A PREHISTORIC scape in the Habur is no doubt familiar to many
ENVIRONMENT Westerners who have worked in Syria. In the modern
Habur, I have asked workmen how they pray. There are
no mosques in the villages, no qibla to orient prayer, and These different approaches, although apparently Kaokab," the sun at midday is overhead. "By they say, fundamentally contrastive, can be pursued in conjunct
thereby conveying a landscape of the recently settled vilion and thereby used to inform one another about the
lager, a man who seldom strays from a fixed orientation
(3) TILLEY, 1994.
(4) SCHAMA, 1995; TILLEY, 1994; BENDER, 1993; THOMAS,
1991, 1993; HARVEY, 1973; COSGROVE, 1984. (6) TILLEY, 1994: 10.
(5) TILLEY, 1994: 19. (7)1994; THOMAS, 1993.
44 McCorriston: Landscape and Human-Environment in the Middle Habur Drainage
to the volcanic landmark which, at his back, points him ing and shortening travel time and distance between
to Mecca. Contemporary locales of landscape signif locales, and depositing fresh alluvial silt on stony soils.
icance include Kaokab, al Balid (Hasseke, the source of Human actions are not mere response to environment;
all commercial products, destination for the desperately humans actively construct space through use of locales
ill), al Hol (the steppe and the spring that made its use and pathways between them. There are temporal and
possible), and Habur, the river that at once provides, dimensional scales to arrangements of locales, their
tethers, and divides. Distance between locales is both incorporation into memory and their disappearance from
spatial and temporal, and the path from village to al human space. Therefore sites have duration and proximi
Balid, for example, is one that follows a shared cultural ty to other sites, tracks and routes mark conventional
experience, a story of sedentarization and the transfo and shared journeys, and fields have seasonal, inter-
rmation of identity from transhumant nomad to market- annual, inter-generational, and multiply re-constructed
and contested meanings for people9. Fields are particudependent cash-crop farmer. Going to Hasseke is an
experience not only of waiting for transport, a long and larly important locales of human landscape for archaeol
uncertain travel with discomfort and crowding (standing ogical study. They are inherently flexible because of the
in the back of an open truck), and dependency on the frequency of change in their appearance. Their flexibili
whims and itinerary of the vehicle driver, but a ty contributes to their intimate association with the orga
metaphorical journey from tribal society to the company nization of society in small scale sedentary communiti
of strangers. The path to al Balid, a fundamental con es. Field tenure can be negotiated and re-negotiated,
struct of the middle Habur villager's landscape today, is and as both the means of social production and repro
memory. The path encompasses time and space quite duction and as a medium on which social rank and
beyond the kilometer distance and transport speed by access may be marked and maintained, fields represent a
which Westerners define its accessibility on maps. special spacial construct of human identity. Even when
no one is in them, they are quintessentially inhabited I have drawn this example from my fieldwork on
space. the Habur to illustrate the social construction of land
But how are archaeologists to reconstruct fields in scape today and to underscore how fundamentally dif
ferent the perspective is from a Western archaeologist's the ancient Habur? From an objective, scientifically
construction of the Habur environment. How many have informed perspective, change in the environment of the
excavated there and seen a degraded landscape, won Middle Habur river has been profound, both recently and
dered how it might have changed, and when? If one is in prehistory. Fields and field environments we see today
truly to address natural space and inhabited space, one may offer very poor objective models for reconstructions
must also consider changes in the experience of space, of past landscapes. Some of the most compelling archae
in the human landscape, and in its construction. If land ological techniques for recognizing former field bounda
scape has changed so dramatically in the past 40 years ries and field use may only serve particular timeframes
since the bedouin were settled and pump-irrigation insti and social conditions10. For example, sherd scatters and
tuted, how profound must the changes have been— in hollow ways mark fields in the near perimeters of late
abstract space and in human space— time and again in third millennium northern Mesopotamian sites during a
prehistory? period of dense population and frequent cropping11. Less
intensive field uses at other times are much more diffi
cult to reconstruct, as archaeological surveys in the Near
East and other areas clearly attest. Land modifications- NATURAL SPACE, INHABITED SPACE, FIELDS,
terraces, canals, stone piles, fertilizer applications, AND THE ROLE OF ARCHAEOBOTANY
boundary markers, field house construction— all tend to
be most pronounced under intensive cultivation and tend
There are temporal and spatial dimensions to also to obliterate traces of earlier field landscapes. Other
change in Habur environments in prehistory. While it archaeological data must be therefore used to reconstruct
may not be possible to reconstruct human perception, past environmental settings and in particular, fields in
archaeologists can examine locales and changes to them the ancient Middle Habur.
in time and aspect8. Kaokab has stood throughout the
human occupation of the Jezireh, but the Habur river has
frequently changed its course, removing some sites, iso
lating others, creating and islands,
(9) GLEASON, 1994.
(10) GLEASON, 1994.
(8) TILLEY, 1994. (11) WILKINSON, 1994.
45 .
naturel, espace habité en Syrie du Nord (10e-2e millénaires av. J.-C.) Espace
Archaeobotanical analysis entails the study of plant of specialized activities with associated architecture that
remains recovered from archaeological sites. In settle- dominated the site14. While it may be reasonably argued
ment.s that depended upon fanning for a major contribu that we do not yet fully understand the local occupation
tion to human and domesticated animal diets, plant and use of space in the preceding fourth millennium, the
third millennium expansion does seem to define a new remains derive largely from agricultural fields. By
landscape in the middle Habur. Factors of climate amelrecovering and identifying plant remains, archaeologists
can document the crops people grew and the soil type ioration15, economic growth and expansion in the north
and conditions of the fields in which they were grown12. or south16, regional specialization and integration17, and
As a study of archaeobotanical remains from the Middle riverine taphonomy may in part explain the differences.
Habur shows, this offers a powerful archaeological tool Over the past decade, my archaeobotanical partici
for environmental and landscape analysis. pation in excavations has ensured a consistent sampling
strategy to extract plant remains from similar contexts at
each of a number of middle Habur sites. From the outset
ARCHAEOBOTANY IN THE MIDDLE HABUR this project employed analyses that minimize differences
within sites and allow comparison of different sites and
different time periods in the Middle Habur. This The Middle Habur defines a stretch of the Habur approach therefore reconstructs a long time-frame of river south of the confluence of streams at modern plant use and highlights major changes in agricultural Hasseke. Further south, the Habur river joins the strategies. Because archaeobotanical analysis is labor-
Euphrates north of Mari and Terqa. Modern environ intensive, the research approach explicitly avoids conments form a gradient from the higher precipitation in centrating efforts on any single site, on differences the north (up to 500 mm) and extensive loams where dry between different areas or different households. Instead, farming is highly productive to the less productive, thin large midden samples were taken and floated to recover gypseous soils flanking the Habur's middle and southern charred plant remains. Such samples mix the accretive valley. Precipitation falls off south of Hasseke, and deposits from hundreds of activities over perhaps under current conditions of less than 250 mm per year decades. No single activity (or assemblage of plants and high interannual variability, farmers depend on irr from it) is isolated. An assemblage of plant remains such igation pumps to water alluvial silts in the Habur valley. as you will see here represents an averaged and homoge
In especially wet years, they may successfully raise a nized mix of the practices that regularly exposed plants cereal crop (barley) on the steppe soils. to fire— cooking, parching grain, and other heating.
Archaeological surveys along the Habur river and in Differences between samples may therefore be attributed
the adjacent steppe have indicated a human presence both to:
since the sixth millennium BC13. Prehistoric sites are 1 different farming practices or other uses of plants few, shallow, and suggest ephemeral or intermittent
2.activities or mixes of activities on site occupations in the vicinity of springs and seasonal water
sources in the steppe. Earliest prehistoric occupations of
the Habur valley itself may have been mostly obliterated
by later meanders in the river; indeed many sites SITES
throughout prehistory may have been eradicated if not
stabilized by overlying later occupation. It may be that Although analysis of material from more than a the most easily recognized feature of Middle Habur
dozen sites is ongoing, this preliminary paper incorporoccupation, the expansion of settlement in the early third
ates samples from five sites in a non-continuous occumillennium, has been enhanced by the earlier stream
pational sequence (calibrated dates given) of the Middle shifts and later stabilization of the Habur river.
Habur region.
At the beginning of the third millennium BC, new
Umm Qseir is the earliest known in situ occupation settlements appeared, many on virgin soil. Over the past
in the middle Habur. Radiocarbon dates suggest occupatdecade, excavators of these Middle Habur sites have
ion between 5800-5200 BC (calibrated). The site was a speculated about the apparent shift in settlement pattern-
small year-round settlement of Halaf farmers who fol- -settlements apparently were more densely spaced along
the river and in many cases contained clear indications
(14) FORTIN and SCHWARTZ, 1994.
(12) HILLMAN, 1981, 1984a, 1984b; JONES, 1984, 1992. (15) HOLE, 1997.
(13) MEIJER, 1986; MONCHAMBERT, 1984; RÖLLIG and (16) FORTIN and 1994, MARGUERON, 1991.
KÜHNE, 1983. (17) McCORRISTON, 1995.
46 McCorriston: Landscape and Human-Environment in the Middle Habur Drainage
lowed a pioneering strategy in their use of wild herd ani A further approach generates groupings of plants
mals and reliable domesticated livestock. Flotation sam that grow in characteristic associations or are consoli
ples were taken from a midden that filled a derelict dated in assemblages by human activities.
Halafian tholos. This approach employs my own and other botanists'
field observations of individual plant species. Plants Ziyade, now located on the opposite, west bank of
have different ecological preferences, used in grouping the Habur river from Umm Qseir, shows evidence of
taxa for analysis21. Thus many non-crop taxa clearly occupation during the Ubaid (fifth millennium BC) and
belong in discrete ecological categories, such as Steppe, early fourth millennium BC (3800 BC). Flotation sam
River bank, Dry farming weeds. Several categories are ples from early fourth millennium contexts included
activity related-Wheat threshing debris and Barley grey ashy midden filling cells of a large, non-domestic
threshing debris. Crops themselves have been classified building and midden overlying abandoned Ubaid
as Wheat grain, Barley grain, Large legumes, and domestic quarters.
Lentils. In most cases food crops are unlikely to appear
'Atij was originally surrounded by water18, and in high numbers in discard contexts such as middens, yet
today the remaining third of the site lies on the east bank their presence does imply their cultivation. Fruits/Wood
of the Habur river. Deposits have been sampled span is a category of non-charcoal plant remains such as seeds
ning the range of the 400 year occupation of the site in collected from the wild either for consumption or with
the first half of the third millennium (3000-2600 BC). wood fuel. (This analysis does not include wood char
The samples included here are from middens filling the coal, which remains to be quantified at most sites).
earliest grille building granaries and subsequent domest Finally, several categories contain taxa or types that may
ic architecture of the earliest six levels. overlap. Fallow/Steppe includes plants that will colo
Raqa'i, like its neighbor 'Atij, may have been a nize disturbed ground in the steppe, including agricul
special granary depot for crops shipped to third millen tural fields. General threshing debris incorporates
nium regional urban centers or consumed locally19. The unidentifiable cereal chaff and could contain a mix of
samples here come from midden deposits in levels 4 and wheat and barley.
3 contemporary with the round building/granary that These categories provide a basis to compare sample
dominates the site (2700-2600 BC). composition and changes in composition across sites and
time periods. At Umm Qseir, for example, 80% of sampKerma is a neighboring early third millennium site
with at least one granary that burned in situ. Because les are dominated by Wheat threshing debris (counts up
most of the Kerma samples are from single storage con to 89%) and Wheat grain (counts up to 32%) (fig. 1).
texts rather than middens, this analysis principally con This pattern is also generally evident at Ziyade, where
siders evidence from the final conflagration of Kerma's Wheat threshing debris also dominates a high percentage
granaries, a key discovery in the interpretation of third of samples (75%). At the third millennium sites of 'Atij
millennium special storage contexts in the middle and Raqa'i, however, few samples had any Wheat grain
or more than 10% Wheat threshing debris. Habur.
RESULTS
*p — There are over 150 taxa and types of plant remains
identified from these sites, and the richest samples con
tain 55, yielding a very complex data set. These results
may be analyzed in a number of ways. Both percentages
and ubiquity of various taxa and types offer simple rela
tive measures of sample composition and allow compari
Umm Ziyade Raqai Atij sons between samples and sites20. These approaches Qseir provide a preliminary means by which to summarize the 10 5 4 16
data so that major patterns can be detected.
Fig. 1 - Wheat + Wheat Threshing. Horizontal axis shows sites and
numbers of samples from each site included in analysis. Vertical axis
shows the ubiquity (set at greater than 30% of the sample rather than
presence only) of Wheat + Wheat threshing. (18) BLACKBURN and FORTIN, 1994.
(19) FORTIN and SCHWARTZ, 1994; HOLE, 1991.
(20) PEARSALL, 1989; POPPER, 1988. (21) JONES, 1992.
47 naturel, espace habité en Syrie du Nord (10e-2e millénaires av. J.-C.) Espace
Another difference appears in Barley and Barley
threshing debris between earlier samples from Umm
Qseir and third millennium samples from 'Atij and
Raqa'i (fig. 2). In particular, Raqa'i samples have large
proportions of Barley threshing debris (fig. 3), but at
both later sites, there is a higher ubiquity of samples
composed of >30% Barley and Barley threshing debris
(fig. 2). The ubiquity of Barley threshing by itself is
interesting fragments of this common type appeared in
Umm Ziyade Atij Raqai only one of the Umm Qseir samples. Howerver, in 90% Qseir
of Umm Qseir samples, Barley grain was present, some10 5 4 16
times in quantity, yet the chaff evidence for its processFig.2 - Barley + Barley Threshing. + Threshing ing on site was virtually absent.
100 Another trend is evident in legumes, ubiquitous and
often also proportionally abundant in samples from
Umm Qseir, where a range of legumes— lentils, peas,
chickpeas and vetches were represented (fig. 4). At SU 60-
50% Ziyade this same range of legumes is still present, but
less ubiquitous. By the third millennium at 'Atij and ifä ο 40-
Raqa'i, few samples contain legumes at all, and the range
Λ 20- has narrowed to exclude vetches and chickpeas. The ear10%
■ I lier level 4 samples at Raqa'i do contain a few legumes,
Raqai but later level 3 samples rarely contain any at all.
Ecological categories also appear to be differently 16
Fig. 3 - Barley Legumes Threshing. Atij represented at different sites. Umm Qseir is practically
devoid of Dry farming weeds, a category that includes
Silène conoidea, Gypsophila pilosa, Vac c aria pyramida-
ta, Euclideum syriacum, Malva sp., Asperula arvensis,
Centaurea hyalolepis, Cichorium pumilum, Garhadiolus
angulosus, Muscari/Ornithogalum type, Bellevalia sp.,
and Taenitherium crinitum (fig. 5). While a single sam
ple at Umm Qseir contains 8% Dry farming weeds, they
are nearly absent at Ziyade. At 'Atij and Raqa'i, howeve
r, this ecological category has much higher ubiquity,
and in samples in which Dry farming weeds are present,
they are also proportionally abundant.
This pattern is matched also with the ubiquity of
Fallow/Steppe, a category which includes small legumes
such as Astragalus type, Medicago radiata, Coronilla Fig. 4 - Legumes.
scorpioides, Trigonella type, and Aegilops grains and Dry Farming Weeds
chaff. These types may incorporate several different
plants; moreover, a number of taxa in these genera have
broad ecological tolerances in disturbed areas, including
fields, on the steppe. Thus, they have been assigned to
Fallow/Steppe and may actually overlap with the Steppe
and the Dry farming weeds categories. Therefore, it is
perhaps unsurprising that the ubiquity of Fallow/Steppe
specimens also increases in the third millennium sites
(fig. 6). At 'Atij and Raqa'i, Fallow/Steppe plants are
proportionally abundant (frequently 25-50% of a sampUmm Ziyade Raqai le) and quite ubiquitous. [Ubiquity measures would Qseir
climb even higher at later sites if an indeterminate class 10 16
of small legumes that includes many poorly preserved Fig. 5 - Dry Farming Weeds.
48 Landscape and Human-Environment in the Middle Habur Drainage McCorriston:
INTERPRETATIONS
What do these patterns signify? There are evident
changes in the activities contributing plant remains to
middens, and some of these activities relate to human
use of the environment and plausibly to changing per
ceptions of natural and inhabited space. At Halafian
Umm Qseir, pioneer settlers seem to have farmed the
available alluvial soils where supplemental moisture
from flooding and higher moisture retention in the soil
would offer best assurance of a crop. The occasional
finds of irrigation weeds such as Portulaca oleracea Fig. 6 - Fallow/Steppe. support this suggestion. Furthermore, the farmers of
Umm Qseir maintained a broad crop base (various
legumes, wheat, barley). Both the use of the best soils Steppe and a diverse range of crops would minimize risk to
farmers in a new or unpredictable environment. As fau-
nal analyses22 and the presence of nuts and berries
(Pistacia, Rubus) attest, the Halafians made use of wild
resources no longer used or available by the third mili> α. - U 60- lennium. The relatively low presence of dry farming
weeds and steppe plants is compatible with this scenario,
although these plants may also be linked with human
activities that increase in later periods.
Lack of barley threshing debris at Umm Qseir may
Umm Ziyade Raqai be attributed to a reliance on non-dung fuels. Wood charQseir coal volumes and other seeds consumed by grazers, such 10 16
as Astragalus type, also suggest low reliance on dung
Fig. 7 - Steppe. fuel at Umm Qseir23. In later sites, barley threshing
debris may enter the middens through its use as fodder
for domesticated animals (whose dung was burned).
Wheat threshing debris comes from emmer wheat,
which must be parched to extract the grain.
At Ziyade, fourth millennium occupants appear to specimens of other Fallow/Steppe types were included
have maintained the wheats and legumes favored in the in the counts]. Ubiquity of Fallow/Steppe at Umm Qseir
Halaf. Barley and barley threshing debris are relatively is 100%, but only 40% of the Umm Qseir samples have
small components of the assemblages, but this may be appreciable counts of these types.
because neither barley threshing debris nor dry farming Steppe species are altogether absent from Umm weeds were regularly used as animal feed. Therefore
Qseir (fig. 7). Only in the later periods do plants that their probability of becoming charred and incorporated
thrive on the steppe appear in midden assemblages from into middens was lower than the wheat threshing debris,
Ziyade, 'Atij, and Raqa'i. Among the fourth and third which was regularly parched. Seeds from steppe and fa
millennium samples, ubiquity is 100%, and up to 75% llow/steppe environments suggest that the inhabitants did
of the assemblage may be seeds from steppe plants such use the rich lands for grazing and burned animal dung
as Atriplex leucoclada, Salsola/Noaea/Hammada type, fuels, perhaps only occasionally (or seasonally?) suppleHypercoum sp., Reseda sp., Ρ wsopis farcia, Euphorbia menting livestock's diet with threshing debris from bar
densa, Andrachne telephioides, Haplophyllum tubercu- ley. The steppe during the Ziyade phase seems to have
latum, Lygia pubescens, Anisociadium orientale, been more widely used, as rangeland for domesticated
Androsace maxima, Arnebia decumbens, Teucrium poli- animals and indirectly to provide animal dung fuel. The
um, Ziziphora sp., Scrophularia sp., Crucianella exas- northern Syrian steppes became an interregionally
perata, Anthémis weitste iniana, Artemisia herba-alba,
Eremopyrum bonaepartis, and Stipa sp.
(22) ZEDER, 1994.
(23) McCORRISTON, 1992.; cf. MILLER, 1988.
49 naturel, espace habité en Syrie du Nord (10e-2e millénaires av. J.-C.) Espace
attractive resource from the fourth millennium onward
when sheep wool began to supplant flax fiber grown on
prime agricultural land24. Although this argument is too
lengthy to expound here, the preliminary evidence from
Ziyade is not inconsistent with a hypothesis that farming
was expanded and extensified in the fourth millennium
to accomodate greater population pressure or increas
ingly important exchange networks in southern
Mesopotamia. Farmers at Ziyade still grew diverse food
crops on the alluvium, but they used the steppe to pas Umm Ziyade Atij Raqai
Qseir ture animals and to generate dung fuel. If some of these
10 5 4 16 animals were sheep, wool would be a potential export to
Fig. 8 - Barley and Wheat, Grains and Threshing. the more constricted countryside and rangelands of arid
southern Mesopotamia.
In the early third millennium, changes in the comp in particularly wet years. The threshing remains from
osition of plant remains assemblages similarly reflect macaroni wheat do not appear regularly in middens, sug
changes in farming activities, changes in use of the gesting that the crop was either only grown at Kerma, or
steppe, and new activities that contributed to midden fo that it may perhaps have been stored most frequently in
rmation on site. From the middens at 'Atij and Raqa'i, spikelets to protect at least some of the grain from insect
there appears to have been a focus on farming barley prédation and moisture. Since it would not require
with less representation of wheat and wheat threshing parching prior to threshing, chaff might be rarely pre
debris. This may have been the case, as the ubiquity of served even at sites at which it was grown.
samples with >30% of these remains shows (fig. 8), but The third millennium probably saw a specialized
other activities may also contribute to this pattern in use of resources by farmers and herders integrated in a
middens, notably, increased use of dung fuel. There are wider pattern of exchange and inter-regional dependenc
several lines of evidence that suggest that animals were y25. The plant remains from 'Atij, Raqa'i, and Kerma
fed barley by-products. First of all, Kerma's Granary A, now appear to support this hypothesis. Barley appears to
which burned with its stored contents intact, contained have been a valuable focus for farming and to have pro
clean, threshed hulled-barley grain and grain-shaped vided fodder for animals too numerous to be supported
dry-farming weed seeds that survived the threshing and by grazing near the sites. The dung from these animals
winnowing process (e.g., Fumaria sp., Hordeum sponta- formed an important resource for daily life at sites like
neum, Bupleurum lancifolium, Torilis type). The di 'Atij and Raqa'i. Legumes drop out of midden assem
scarded chaff would have been available for animal fod blages and the crop base apparently narrows to integrate
der, and would also contain other weeds of dry farming farming with a probable surplus animal production.
that appear in midden assemblages. A further argument
There is one final new plant type that appears at can be made that it is through burning dung fuels that the
third millennium 'Atij, Raqa'i, and Kerma. Carthamus is greater ubiquity of Steppe and Fallow/Steppe plants
a genus that includes Carthamus tinctorius, a domestiappears at third millennium sites. The plant remains sug
cate that eventually was valued for its yellow dye and gest that animals were grazed part of the year on the
safflower oil. The Carthamus seeds recovered from third steppe and part of the year on dry-farmed field stubble.
millennium Habur sites cannot yet be identified to Barley threshing debris served as valuable fodder during
species. But these seeds do suggest some new practices. the seasons when animals were concentrated at the
Carthamus ripens in summer and if sown, would signal Habur river and forage was scarce.
summer cropping, an intensive agricultural practice that
In the Northern Granary at Kerma, the stored con extracts several crops each year from a single field.
tents were a mix of threshing debris from barley, emmer Carthamus tinctorius does thrive in marginal environ
wheat (Triticum dicoccum), and free-threshing macaroni ments, but does not do particularly well under irrigadurum). This latter is a hardy strain well tion26. Its cultivation, if such was the case at 'Atij and suited to dry-farming in a marginal environment. It Raqa'i, would indicate greater spring and possibly even appears for the first time in the third millennium and early summer rainfall. This seems a tenuous conclusion
would have served farmers as a valuable crop on the
riskier soils of adjacent steppes, which might be farmed
(25) FORTIN and SCHWARTZ, n.d.; SCHWARTZ, 1994,
McCORRISTON, 1995; ZEDER, 1994, 1995.
(24) McCORRISTON, 1997. (26) KNOWLES, 1955; SMITH, 1996.
50 McCornston: Landscape and Human-Environment in the Middle Habur Drainage
to draw at present. But the inclusion of Carthamus seeds recognizing landscape features and how they have
in middens might also be interpreted as human focus on changed. Kaokab has changed slowly, if at all. But the
the plant either for its properties as a dye or as a barrier boundaries of fields and the patterns of crops and hedg
around agricultural fields. This latter is a current prac ing have changed appreciably in the past, marking, no
tice in parts of India, where the thorny leaves and stalks doubt, substantial reorientation of perspective, experi
keep animals away from crops27. If Carthamus were cul ence, and tradition on the part of Habur inhabitants.
tivated in this manner, it might provide useful barriers in From the archaeobotanical record, we may note that the
early summer when animals returned to the Habur river. earlier occupants used narrow space broadly— they plant
Seeds would be produced in late summer, but the dye- ed a wide range of crops in a restricted band of river all
bearing flowers would be available in mid summer dur uvium. Later occupants used broad space narrowly— they
ing the very season when wool would be plucked and focused on a specialized herding and foddering strategy
processed. that exploited steppe and river while integrating their
lives into a broader economic framework across northern
Mesopotamia. We may see this as a gradualistic pattern
of humans inhabiting natural space, but a final note of FUTURE DIRECTIONS
caution hedges against unduly imposing this fundament
ally Western concept of space on a landscape rich with
The analyses and interpretations presented here are alternative perspectives.
preliminary and may change as more samples are incor
porated into analysis. There remains also a large gap in
the fifth millennium for which we have collected materi ACKNOWLEDGMENTS al from several sites but not yet completed sorting and
identifying plant remains. The patterns presented here
are the most robust. Multivariate statistical analyses I deeply appreciate the courtesy, hospitality, and
would examine differences and similarities between logistical support provided by the representatives of the
assemblages and how different taxa contribute to differ government in Syria, especially Dr. Sultan Muheissen,
ences between groups of samples (e.g., granaries and Director of Antiquities and Museums, Dr. Adnan
middens). The differences between contemporary sites Bounni, and Dr. Nasib Saliby. In Hasseke I have to thank
can be highlighted and trends more subtle than those the regional office staff under Mr. Jean-Simon Lazar,
emphasized here may be detected. especially, Mrs. Nejah Touwer, Mr. Ali Ali, Mr. Rahim
Nanou, Mr. Ibrahim Murad, and Slimu. The Taza family
of Hasseke have provided help and hospitality through
out this project. FIELDS AND HUMAN SPACE
This analysis grows out of many seasons of field-
work and thoughtful discussions. I would like to thank The principal contribution of archaeobotany has many inspiring collaborators in the Habur, especially- been to reconstruct field use and the use of the steppe Frank Hole, Youssef Barkoudah, Melinda Zeder, Michel resources for grazing and farming during the occupat Fortin, Glenn Schwartz, and Greg Johnson. Thanks also ions of several sites and periods. This information may to Naomi Miller and symposium participants in Quebec be helpful in reconstructing environments in the past, a for comments on this paper. vital aspect of an environmental archaeology and scient
Finally, analysis has greatly benefitted from the ific perspective in which subsistence and resource
access form the basis of adaptive behaviors and human- efforts, some entirely voluntary, of the following indi
viduals in Minnesota—Susan Pennington, Jill Karels, environment interaction. Reconstructed field usage also
Dan Trudeau, Heidi Ekstrom, Lisa Lundeen, and Karen may contribute to interpretations of human space, for we
D'Ascenzo. Analysis was partially supported by the cannot approximate people's constructed and negotiated
University of Minnesota, the Paleorecords of Global space without an appreciation for the environmental
Change Research and Training Group, and the National medium available to them. While it will never be possi
Science Foundation. ble to experience inhabited space and natural space from
the perspective of prehistoric occupants, archaeologists Joy McCornston
can better approximate the experience of landscape by Department of Anthropology
215 Ford Hall
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN 55455
U.S.A. (27) SMITH, 1996.
51