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Diversity and complexity in early farming communities of Southwest Asia: New insights into the economic and environmental basis of Neolithic Çatalhöyük

Roberts, CN; ROSEN, A; (2009) Diversity and complexity in early farming communities of Southwest Asia: New insights into the economic and environmental basis of Neolithic Çatalhöyük. Current Anthropology , 50 (3) pp. 393-402. 10.1086/598606.

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Abstract

Intensive but localized cultivation of cereal crops on alluvial wetlands is thought to have provided the ecological basis for the primary Neolithic settlement that spread across southwest Asia and southeast Europe. New excavations at Çatalhöyük provide an opportunity to test this horticultural model via multiple data sources. Geoarchaeological studies show that the main Neolithic occupation coincided with a period of active river alluviation. Most of the area surrounding Çatalhöyük was therefore under floodwaters each spring that would have seriously damaged any autumn-sown cereal crops. Independent evidence that the cereal crops consumed at Çatalhöyük were grown under rain-fed conditions derives from the paucity of silicified multicellular wheat phytoliths at the site. Together, these and other data suggest that the bulk of the cereal agriculture was not carried out in the immediate vicinity of Çatalhöyük but was at least 13 km and 3 h away in dryland soils. In turn, this implies that there may have been seasonal fission and fusion of Çatalhöyük's population, with systematic exploitation of, and impact on, a range of different ecological zones. This phase of nucleated settlement ended when river flooding ceased, coincident with a multidecadal drought from 6300 to 6140 BC.

Type: Article
Title: Diversity and complexity in early farming communities of Southwest Asia: New insights into the economic and environmental basis of Neolithic Çatalhöyük
DOI: 10.1086/598606
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/933707
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