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Marginal Landscapes? The Azraq Oasis and the cultural landscapes of the final Pleistocene southern Levant

Richter, T.; (2009) Marginal Landscapes? The Azraq Oasis and the cultural landscapes of the final Pleistocene southern Levant. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access


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This thesis examines the final Pleistocene cultural landscape of the Azraq Oasis in eastern Jordan on the basis of archaeological fieldwork conducted at Ayn Qasiyya and AWS 48, two Epipalaeolithic sites in the southern Azraq wetlands. It challenges traditional understandings of landscape and socio-cultural changes during the Epipalaeolithic period, and this period’s role in shaping the subsequent emergence of agriculture and sedentism. The current model of socio-cultural change, which considers the Epipalaeolithic-Neolithic transition as a development from simple foragers, to complex collectors, to farmers, is critically reviewed. Evidence from the Epipalaeolithic of the Le-vant is highlighted that strongly suggests that this unilineal sequence must be re-evaluated. Furthermore, the social evolutionary underpinnings of this model are critiqued and rejected. This social evolutionary model is based on a conceptualization of the southern Levantine landscape as sub-divided into distinct phyto-geographical zones, which suggest a dichotomy between a lush ‘core’ and a impoverished ‘periphery’. Palaeoenvironmental data, however, is argued to be poorly correlated with major instances of socio-cultural change. This dichotomy also relates to a static understanding of landscape as empty, commodified space. To examine the Azraq Oasis from a different perspective and to suggest an alternative narrative the archaeological evidence produced by three seasons of fieldwork at Ayn Qasiyya and AWS 48 is first described in detail, and then interpreted from a practice orientated perspective. This practice perspective centres on examining the châine opératoire of the chipped stone artefacts and the activities and practices at the sites. It is argued that practices at these localities shapes space into social places, and that hereby landscapes become socially and culturally constructed. Using data from Ayn Qasiyya specifically, the social interactions of diverse social communities in the Azraq Basin can be tentatively reconstructed, providing a further example of the way in which social space was created though social engagement. I argue that these instances of the creation of places, and the evidence for social interaction, provide an alternative perspective on the Early and Middle Epipalaeolithic in the Azraq Basin and the southern Levant as a whole, which should lead us to reconsider the applicability of the geographical core-periphery dichotomy and social evolutionary models.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Marginal Landscapes? The Azraq Oasis and the cultural landscapes of the final Pleistocene southern Levant
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/18727
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