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Diversity of plant and land use during the Near Eastern Neolithic: phytolith perspectives from Çatalhöyük

Ryan, P.L.; (2010) Diversity of plant and land use during the Near Eastern Neolithic: phytolith perspectives from Çatalhöyük. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

Based in the Konya Basin of Central Anatolia, the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük (East Mound) is important to our understanding of the development of early agricultural societies. Occupied between 7400-7100 cal BC to 6200-5900 cal BC, the site is notable for its extended period of occupation, large size and densely packed architecture. Research into Neolithic plant and land use has generally focused upon agricultural crops and the environments in which they are grown, and less is known about the role of wild plants and the non-food use of plants in the later Neolithic. This project used phytolith analysis, a micro-botanical technique, as a way of exploring patterns of plant and land use. Phytoliths present in sediments collected from middens and buildings were analysed to investigate plants exploited for food, fuel, craft activities, and construction. Unusually abundant macroscopically visible silicified (phytolith) remains, including from plant artifacts, also offered direct evidence for certain types and locations of plant-use. A wide range of plant-uses and pathways has highlighted how phytolith assemblages relate to different kinds of ‘input sources’, and how certain environmental habitats may be reflected in the different types of original materials found in archaeological contexts. Quantified analysis of sediments has detected temporal changes in plants present throughout the site occupation, including a dramatic increase in amounts of Phragmites australis. This increase probably reflects the invasive potential of that particular wetland reed, and may be the result of anthropogenic impact. Whilst the use of cereals, in particular wheat, is emphasised, wild plants were also stored for food and used for a wide range of other purposes. The role of wild plants in diversification strategies, together with the sustainability of their exploitation, should be further considered at other Neolithic sites and may have varied in relation to the diversity of Near Eastern environments.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Diversity of plant and land use during the Near Eastern Neolithic: phytolith perspectives from Çatalhöyük
Language:English
Additional information:Permission for digitisation not received
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences > Institute of Archaeology

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