Evaluating risk, sustainability, and decision making in agricultural and land-use strategies at ancient Gordion
Identifying how ancient societies made decisions about agriculture and land use is important for understanding why some pre-industrial agricultural systems flourished and others collapsed. Environmental archaeological data offer a unique diachronic perspective on the ephemerality or sustainability of agriculture in a particular place. This dissertation considers paleoethnobotanical and related archaeological evidence for changes in landscape and agricultural practices at the ancient city of Gordion in central Anatolia (modern Turkey) over a period of more than 2000 years, from the Late Bronze Age to the Medieval period. In order to interpret these data, agricultural and land-use strategies are modeled as a set of decision-making processes based on principles of human behavioral ecology and foraging theory, the study of how people make subsistence decisions in the context of social and biological environments.
Wood charcoal remains from Gordion show a pattern of long-term forest succession in the region. Wood acquisition strategies at Gordion appear to have focused on the use of local, available tree types for fuel but on more distant forest woods for construction. This is likely due to the lack of tall, straight juniper and pine in the immediate proximity of the site after the Late Bronze Age due to deforestation and resultant forest succession.
Paleoethnobotanical macroremains from Gordion indicate that a mixed agropastoral system focused on cereal cultivation and sheep and goat herding was standard during all periods of occupation. Shifts in regional demographics and political and economic systems, however, resulted in changing agricultural strategies between periods. Higher levels of population and economic success led to agricultural intensification and a decline in subsistence diversity, a traditional risk-management strategy. Increased population density resulted in overgrazing and steppe degradation in the immediate area of Gordion, increasing erosion and causing substantial alluviation of the Sakarya River. In contrast, climate change seems to have been only a minor factor influencing [and-use decisions at Gordion. A diversified agropastoral system, with dry farming of cereals and pulses and extensive herding, appears to have been the most sustainable agricultural strategy at Gordion over the long term.
Middle Eastern history;
0333: Middle Eastern history
0477: Environmental Studies