DATE2016-07-15 17:15:45
AUTHORSSophia Laparidou
  1. The University of Texas at Austin
ABSTRACTA variety of climate proxy data suggest that the medieval period in the Southern Levant was marked by short humid events which favored agricultural activities between the end of the Crusader period and the early Mamluk period, followed by more arid climatic conditions throughout the entire Mamluk period (1260-1519 AD). Humid climatic conditions re-occurred in the fifteenth century. In the contrasting environmental regions of Jordan, years of short rain seasons would alternate with droughts annually or every two to four years, and would have affected directly state and peasant agriculture. In this paper I present direct evidence (phytoliths) for state-level and village-level agro-pastoral regimes and medieval landscapes during Mamluk plantation economies in Transjordan. The phytolith assemblages analyzed for this paper offer new and direct evidence for local-scale human influence on the natural environment related to Late Holocene climatic variability, and the industrialization and intensification of agriculture during the Mamluk period in Jordan. The phytolith record indicated the heavy impact that imperial industry and economy have had on the medieval landscape through evidence for large-scale intensified production of cereals in the central and south plains of Jordan, and of sugarcane in the southern Ghors. Also, phytolith evidence provided evidence for the production, storage and management of irrigated cereal grain, and showed that controlled grain surplus was used by the state in times of need. At the same time, phytolith evidence derived from medieval rural sites of Transjordan showed that peasants invested in mixed agro-pastoral economies; the distribution of agricultural surplus to local markets; and small-scale production and storage of cereals, other crops, livestock and agricultural surplus. Peasants depended on their autonomy to invest in strategies of adaptation that minimize risk. These observations are of great importance and help us understand the ways early pre-industrial and agricultural activities impacted semi-arid landscapes and small-scale communities in Transjordan during periods of climatic, political and economic change.