Report Prepared by:
Øystein S. LaBianca
Institute of Archaeology &
Department of Behavioral Science
Berrien Springs, MI 49104
With Contributions From:
Gary L. Christopherson
Richard P. Watson
Russanne D. Low
Douglas W. Schnurrenberger
Field research was carried out in cooperation with the Madaba Plains Project, the Department of Antiquities of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Department of Biological Sciences (Dr. Dawud Al-Eisawi) of the University of Jordan, the Azraq Wetlands Project, the UNRWA Palestinian Training Center in Muqabulain, and ACOR
Research under NGS Grant Number 5758-96 sought to establish a link between episodes of food system intensification and abatement and cycles of environmental degeneration and regeneration in Jordan. In order to study this problem, field research was focused on the region around Tall Hisban in the central Jordanian highlands between the towns of Amman and Madaba. While previous field research has brought to light the cyclic nature of long-term food system processes in this region, the present study aimed to learn more about how these cycles contributed to the degeneration of the natural environment, and in particular, to the removal of the prehistoric woodland forest.
Fieldwork was carried out during the summers of 1996 and 1997 by a team consisting of an anthropologist, a survey archaeologist, a geoarchaeologist, an ethnopalaeobotanist, and a geographer. Methods used included an arboreal survey to ascertain the current and potential state of the forest; an archaeological survey to deepen understanding of long-term changes in settlement patterns and technologies for managing soil and water resources; geoarchaeological research in selected wadies to determine patterns of erosion and soil loss; and a re-examination of faunal data on hand from earlier archaeological excavations at Tall Hisban to search for clues that might help fill out the picture regarding long-term environmental change.
On the basis of insights gained through these inquiries, the outlines of the story of how the prehistoric Mediterranean woodland forest was destroyed has begun to come to light. This story begins with mention of the burgeoning evidence for the beginnings of agriculture in the Near East having occurred in the Mediterranean forests of the Southern Levant. The discovery of forest-dwelling Epipalaeolithic cultures associated with this achievement in the Hisban Region is consistent with other findings that point to the existence of a Mediterranean Woodland Forest here during Early Holocene and Neolithic times.
The first major deforestation event in this region appears to have occurred during the Early Bronze Age. Additional forests were cut down during the Iron Age, and by Roman-Byzantine times what remained of the virgin forest was nearly completely removed. Contrary to what is often asserted, sustained regeneration of forests appears to have gotten underway during Early Islamic times. This process of recovery of the ancient forest continued until the middle of the nineteenth century when isolated stands of forests could still be seen. This regenerated forest was then cut down again as a consequence of resettlement of the region and the building of the Hejaz Railroad.
Work is currently underway to further validate the above hypothesis. Among the sorts of inquiries being carried out are more extensive studies of the development of water and soil management technologies; GIS assisted research on the history of replacement of natural vegetation by agricultural crops; investigations of episodes of erosion and soil loss; experimentation with palaeomagnetism as a tool for dating pedogenic processes; further research on the ecology and history of the Holocene flora and fauna; and continued research on the history of the Holocene climate.
Contact: Øystein LaBianca, Tel: (616) 471-3152, E-mail: email@example.com
Recent research by prehistorians on the palaeoenvironment of the Southern Levant throughout the early Holocene has established that, in contrast to today, large portions of the mountainous highlands on both sides of the Jordan Valley were covered by Mediterranean Woodland Forests (Fig. 1).
Having come into existence as a result of major climatic changes during the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene, these forests provided the ideal preconditions for humanity's first successful experiments with agriculture and sedentism.(1) These experiments were carried out by a succession of Epipalaeolithic cultures, the latest and best known being the Natufians.(2)
Over the past three decades research by Madaba Plains Project (3) archaeologists in the mountainous slopes and highlands of the Lower Jordan Valley in Central Transjordan has been concerned with reconstructing changes over time in long-term patterns of human exploitation of natural resources in order to provide food. This research has resulted in demonstration of long-term food system cycles in the region involving periods of intense human alteration of the natural environment followed by periods of abatement in such activity (Fig. 2).
Research under NGS Grant Number 5758-96 launched fieldwork by the Madaba Plains Project aimed at deepening understanding of the role of these long-term food system cycles in contributing to the removal of the prehistoric Mediterranean Woodland Forests in the region.(4) The project set out to test two hypotheses: first, that the process of deforestation involved successive episodes of degeneration and regeneration of the Mediterranean forests culminating, over circa ten millennia, in its near complete removal by modern times, (5) and second, that these episodes were largely caused by anthropogenic activity related to oscillations over time in the intensity of the local food system (Fig 3).
To gather data to test these hypotheses, investigations were carried out in the region within 5 km of Tall Hisban. According to vegetation zonation maps of Transjordan, the potential climax species within this territory is about 80% Mediterranean Forests and--along the banks of the Wadi Hisban and its tributaries--20% Mesopotamian Steppe Climax Vegetation (Fig. 4).
That the project area is still capable of producing the dominant components of the Mediterranean Woodlands, namely oak and pine, is attested by their use as windbreaks within agricultural plots and by the existence of isolated stands of recently planted coniferous forests (Fig 5).
The extent to which they have been removed, however, was revealed by the results of a botanical study of arboreal species located within 50 randomly selected 200x200 meter sampling units (Fig. 6). This study found only one instance where the dominant components were represented and, in general, concluded that the occurrences of woody plants of nonagricultural importance were infrequent at best (See Appendix A).
Attempts to link the process of removal of the Mediterranean forests with long-term cycles of food system intensification and abatement ended up focusing on changes over time in the location of rural settlements and on patterns of construction and maintenance of soil and water management facilities. To study changes over time in intensity of rural settlement lithics and pottery were collected within the above mentioned random squares (Fig. 6).
Preliminary study of the resulting data reveals a complete absence of either Pre-pottery or Pottery Neolithic, as well as of Chalcolithic cultures. The Bronze Age is represented primarily by Early Bronze Age sherds; the Iron Age primarily by Iron II sherds; the Classical Era primarily by Byzantine sherds; and the Islamic Era primarily by Ayyubid-Mamluk sherds.
Attempts are currently underway to link developments in water and soil management technology to the above mentioned periods of high intensity rural settlement.(6) Preliminary findings are that runoff farming involving construction of check dams in wadies and experimentation with hill-side terrace construction got underway during the Early Bronze Age. These techniques come into widespread use during the Iron Age.(7) In addition, rooftop collection of water into cisterns and development of techniques for constructing large water reservoirs permit Iron Age rural settlements to spread onto the drier upland plateau where soils are ideal for dry-farming of cereals and legumes (Fig. 7).
The extent of investment in water and soil management facilities reaches a much higher peak during the intensively settled Roman and Byzantine periods. Not only are the check dams, terraces, cisterns and reservoirs built in previous eras restored and reused, but improved and enlarged versions of such structures are constructed on a much grander scale and are installed more extensively throughout the project area than in any previous or subsequent period (8) (Fig 8).
In addition, paved roads and market places, water channels, water mills and aqueducts come into use during this period as well. The cumulative effect of all of these undertakings was that by the end of the Classical Era all but the most remote hilltops and slopes within the project area were cleared of any remaining stands of coniferous forests.
About the human impact on the local environment during the Islamic Era much remains uncertain. What is quite certain, however, is that the centuries which preceded and followed the rise of the Ayyubid-Mamluk administration in Transjordan (ca AD 1200-1450) saw great declines in the density of permanently settled rural villages and towns. A consequence of this was that there simply were not enough people around to maintain the enormous civil and environmental engineering projects installed during the Roman/Byzantine era.(9) A very significant consequence of this situation appears to have been accelerated erosion of hillside soils into project area valleys. Evidences of such events were clearly seen in core samples obtained from alluvial fill layers in valley bottoms throughout the project area. These produced up to six meters worth of transported soils containing pottery from the Classical and Ayyubid-Mamluk eras (Fig 9).
The story of how the Mediterranean forests of this part of the Southern Levant were removed can now be summarized with respect to the whole of the Holocene:
The original virgin forest (Fig. 10a), dominated by oak and pine, were established as a consequence of climatic changes which occurred during Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene. The discovery in 1989 in the Wadi Hisban of a cluster of Epipalaeolithic cultural materials, including "extremely sharp chert knapping debitage and many burnt animal bone fragments" (Edwards as cited in Bisheh & Khouri 1990) is evidence that here, too, some of the earliest experiments with agriculture may have occurred.
The movement of agriculture down-slope into the Jordan Valley during the Neolithic appears to have postponed for several millennia large-scale removal of trees from the project area by early farmers. The basis for this claim is the nearly complete absence of either lithics or pottery from the Neolithic or Chalcolithic--this despite two intensive surveys of the region.
The first major deforestation event within the project area appears thus not to have occurred until about 3500 BC or the Early Bronze Age, when the well-watered slopes of Wadi Hisban and its tributaries began to be terraced and developed for runoff farming (Fig 10b). The concentration of sites in the Wadi Hisban region during this period provides the major line of evidence for this proposal (Fig. 11).
The expansion of settlement and landuse onto the highland plateau during the Iron Age (1250-500BC) represents the next major assault on the remaining woodland forests (Fig. 10c). This expansion appears to have impacted the entire project area in that not only were trees cleared to make room for dryland farming on the fertile plains of the highland plateau, runoff agriculture appears simultaneously to have been intensified in the wadi region (Fig. 12).
The work of clearing the remaining virgin forests was likely completed during the Classical Era (ca 150BC-AD650) when the full impact of centuries and millennia of development of civil and environmental engineering technology culminates in the removal of the last vestiges of the virgin forests (Fig. 10d). This situation is reflected both in the density of remains of hamlets, farmsteads, villages and towns during Byzantine times and in the widespread occurrence of huge water reservoirs throughout the project area during this period (Fig. 13).
Thus what had remained of patches of forests since the Iron Age were all cut down to make room for the complete take-over of the natural resource by the Roman and Byzantine agromanagerial state.
The collapse of this agromanagerial state toward the end of the seventh millennium AD was accompanied with a huge decline in population. As a consequence, during the Early Islamic Centuries, there seems to have been a retreat of agriculture to places where fewer laborers were needed to keep up with the work--namely to villages on the plain and to the less steeply sloped portions of the Wadi Hisban region. This, in turn, made possible re-establishment of patches of forests in areas where agriculture was no longer deemed viable (Fig. 10e). This process of afforestation is evidenced by the increase in forest-loving wild birds in the faunal assemblage from Ayyubid-Mamluk times at Tall Hisban (Fig. 14).
The process of regeneration of the forest appears to have continued right up till the end of the nineteenth century, judging from the accounts of travelers to the region who reported seeing stands of forests in several locations within the project area, including in "the great wood" of oak and terebinth known as Hirsh Amriyeh noted by Condor (Fig. 15).
[At Es Sinobarat, meaning "the firs"] A conspicuous group of fir trees on the high ground, which is otherwise bare of trees. It probably indicates that the great wood called Hirsh Amriyeh has been thinned considerably, leaving these few trees. Firs are found in many places on the ridges of Jebel 'Ajlun, and in e great wood north of 'Arak el Emir.
C.R. Condor, Survey of Eastern Palestine, p. 220, pub. 1889
The destruction of this regenerated forest (Fig. 10f) occurred as a consequence of introduction of lime kilns to make plaster and the demand for railroad ties and wood fuel in order to make possible rail service in Transjordan during the early part of the present century (Fig. 16).
The disappearance of wildlife in Jordan during the past century which accompanied this latest assault on the forest has been described by Mountfort.
Research under NGS Grant Number 5758-96 has resulted in tentative support for the two hypotheses stated in the beginning, namely that the process of deforestation involved periods of degeneration followed by periods of regeneration of the forest and that these episodes are closely linked to changes over time in the intensity of the local food system. Research is currently underway which will subject these hypotheses to much more rigorous testing. Among the studies being carried out presently are the following.
Studies of previous research on the development of environmental engineering know-how in Jordan and Palestine is presently being carried out by Lars Wahlin of the Department of Human Geography of the University of Stockholm. His research will attempt to ascertain more precisely the history of development of different types of rain water and runoff collection systems based on what has been learned through previous research by the Madaba Plains Project and other investigators.
Specifically, his research will examine the history of the use of roof-tops for collecting rain water into domestic cisterns; microcatchment systems for supplying water to agricultural cistern, kitchen gardens, and water-thirsty plants; terraces for preventing soil erosion and storing water for field crops and orchards; check-dams placed in stream beds to retain the runoff water to be stored in soils; conduit channels for transporting water collected up-slope to down-slope agricultural fields, cisterns, or storage reservoirs; and diversion systems for diverting runoff floodwaters into adjacent agricultural fields. A tentative chronological framework for the development of runoff farming in the project area is set forth in Fig. 17.
There are plans, as well, for additional fieldwork during the summer of 1998 dealing with this problem.
Efforts to predict the intensity with which the natural vegetation was removed as a consequence of agricultural and settlement intensification during specific historical periods is now underway at the University of Arizona. Being carried out by Gary Christopherson and other members of the Advanced Resource Technology Group, this research begins with grouping of the sites identified by means of the random survey according to cultural periods based on pottery content. The location of sites during specific periods is then analyzed in relationship to the environmental characteristics of the surrounding terrain using GIS. The likelihood of these characteristics being the result of random action is next determined by comparing the local environment at specific site locations with randomly located non-site locations. The outcome of such analysis are period-specific "environmental signatures" expressed as probability models and represented by means of "trend surfaces"(Fig. 18).
These surfaces will then be used to predict the intensity with which the vegetation cover was replaced by domesticated plants causing degeneration.
Also underway at the same University of Arizona laboratory is GIS assisted research on erosion potential and soil loss in the Hisban region. Using the Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE) developed by the US Department of Agriculture as a tool for determining soil loss, a series of models detailing erosion potential under a variety of conditions will be built for the region. Following previous research in the nearby Tall al-Umayri region, archaeological sites from the Hisban region will be introduced into the models in order to discover the erosion potential in the vicinity of each site (Fig 19).
Based on the assumption that if archeological sites were located in areas with high erosion potential in which terracing would have been both necessary and probable, attempts will be made to determine the degree to which terrace construction and neglect contributed to soil erosion during specific historical periods.
Laboratory research to help find ways to date erosional events are being carried out by Russanne Low of the Limnological Research Center of the University of Minnesota and Doug Schnurrenberger of the Department of Geology of San Juan College. Their research is founded on the fact that numerous studies have demonstrated an increased concentration of magnetic iron oxides in well-drained topsoils (Oldfield el al. 1989). The magnetic grains produced in situ are geometric, ultrafine grained and of stable single domain size or smaller (Mayer and Taylor 1988 in ibid.). Palaeomagnetic studies of river loads have demonstrated that source sediments derived from topsoils retain signatures of secondary magnetic enhancement derived from complex processes occurring during surface exposure and pedogenic processes.
The transformation of iron compound through pedogenic processes can produce measurable contrasts between surface soil and substrate in a wide range of conditions (Oldfield et al. 1979). Their research aims to ascertain the extent to which such signals might be preserved in the wadi deposits of the project area. If this proves to be the case, it promises to provide an independent chronology of landscape alteration that can be compared to archaeological data and palaeo-climatological records.(12)
Research aimed at understanding long-term changes in the vegetational dynamics of the local plant communities is also being carried out by Russanne Low and Doug Schnurrenberger. This research is founded on the Mediterranean vegetation dynamics model of Tomasali which is an attempt to predict successional stages in the pattern of regeneration and degeneration of vegetation. The principle source of data for this line of research are macrobotanical remains collected by excavators at Tall Hisban during the past two field seasons. Based on studies of carbonized seeds of different types of plants obtained from deposits representing different historical periods, the study will attempt to reconstruct the composition of the dominant components of the plant communities which prevailed during different time periods. To the carbonized seed samples collected during the 1996 and 1997 field season at Tall Hisban additional ones will be added through excavations planned for the 1998 field season.
Research aimed at understanding long-term changes in the composition of the wild fauna during different historical periods will likely be carried out by Angela von den Driesch and Joris Peters of the Institut fur Palaeo-anatomie, Domestikationsforschung and Geschichte der Tiermedizin of Ludwig-Maximilian Universitat, Munich, Germany. Negotiations are presently underway with Prof von den Driesch to obtain her Institute's services in studying the faunal remains uncovered not only at Tall Hisban, but also at all other Madaba Plains Project sites. The proposal is that they come to Jordan next summer to go through the material on hand and make arrangements for shipment to Germany of all materials pertinent to reconstructing the dominant components of the wild animal communities of Central Transjordan over the past 5000 years.
A critical variable in understanding the causes of environment change in Jordan is the possible contribution of climate change during late prehistorical and historical times. While a certain amount of research has already been done by others regarding this issue, very little of this research has been carried out in Jordan. An opportunity to do so has presented itself, however, as a result of a serendipitous discovery of the 1996 season environmental survey team. After weeks of unsuccessful attempts at locating within the Hisban project area wetland environments likely to contain pollen and other environmental proxy data, the team made a visit to the Azraq Oasis approximately 100 kilometers to the east of the project area. There they discovered the Palaeolithic site of Ain Soda.12
Research conducted in 1996 and again in 1997 by Rick Watson and Doug Schnurrenberger of San Juan College at the site of 'Ain Soda has demonstrated the presence of a long history of occupation and use of the Azraq wetlands spanning the Holocene through the Middle Paleolithic. Palaeoenvironmental evidence in the form of pollen and faunal remains appears to be abundant at the site judging from two seasons of field work. Stratified deposits spanning multiple millennia promise to provide valuable information on the history of both climate and environment of Central Jordan. Close coordination between the Azraq project and the present project promises to provide solid new evidence on which to base conclusions about the Holocene climate.
Research under NGS Grant Number 5758-96 has succeeded in establishing a link between episodes of food system intensification and abatement and cycles of environmental degeneration and regeneration in Jordan. In so doing, it has brought to light the initial outlines of the story of how the forests of the Hisban region were removed. In this region, the first major deforestation event occurred during the Early Bronze Age. Additional forest loss occurred during the Iron Age. The job was completed by the Romans and Byzantines.
A process of sustained regeneration of forests appears to have gotten underway during Early Islamic times which culminated with re-establishing of stands of forests in a number of locations around Hisban by the middle of the nineteenth century. This regenerated forest was then cut down again as a consequence of resettlement of the region and the building of the Hejaz Railroad.
To further test this hypothesis, a number of new lines of research have been launched, most of which are currently underway or are being planned for next summer. These include intensified research on the history of water harvesting technology; research on the history of vegetational replacement; research on the history of erosion and soil loss; research on palaeomagnetism as a tool for dating pedogenic processes; research on the history of ancient flora; research on the history of ancient fauna; and research on the history of the Holocene climate.
The findings of this research comes as a challenge to previous assumptions and findings about the history of deforestation and its causes in Palestine. On the one hand, most researchers have tended to assume that the first major deforestation event in the Southern Levant occurred during the Neolithic. On the other hand, there is the oft repeated claim that the shift to increased pastoral nomadism throughout the Islamic centuries accounts for the denuded state of the present-day landscape.
In defense of these contradictory findings I offer the following observations. First, the present conclusions flow from such empirical data as we now have on hand after thirty years of on-going research in the Hisban region. This data is by no means without its limitations, but it is surely equal in quality and quantity to most of the data on which previous claims about the history of deforestation have been made. Second, as the results of new lines of research by our team come to light, they may confirm or cause us to modify substantially the account presented here.
Finally, it should be stressed that the story of deforestation of the Southern Levant will vary from one region to the next. Ours is an account of the evolution of the landscape of Hisban, in particular the landscape within five kilometer radius of this one site. It is only as similarly geographically focused investigations are undertaken in many other parts of the Southern Levant that a solid empirical foundation will be obtained for telling the story of deforestation of the whole region.
1. See McCorriston and Hole (1991) and Olsewski (1993) for discussion of the origins of agriculture in the Southern Levant. Amiran (1962), Baruch and Bottema (1991), Bottema (1987), Raikes (1985), and Shehadeh (1985) present specific discussion of the climate as a precursor for the beginnings of agriculture in the region. Henry (1995) provides a valuable reference on the prehistoric ecology and evolution of southern Jordan.
2. Extensive research on the development of agriculture in the Southern Levant particularly among the Natufians has been done by Bar-Yosef (1980), Bar-Yosef and Belfer-Cohen (1991), Byrd (1989), Henry (1985), Moore (1991), and Unger-Hamilton (1989) among others. The general history of agricultural practices in the Levant has been discussed by Edelstein and Gibson (1982), Evanari, Aharoni, Shanan, and Tadmor (1958), Mabry (1992), McCreery (1980), Prausnitz (1959), Reifenberg (1955), Schoeninger (1981), Shanan, Tadmor, and Evanari (1958), Sperber (1972), Tadmor, Evenari, Shanan, and Hillel (1957), and Zohary (1954). Harlan (1985), in particular, indicates cyclical changes in land usage. Beaumont (1985), Dale and Carter (1955), Naveh and Dan (1973), Reifenburg (1955), and Van Andel, Zangger, and Demitrack (1990) have written about the destruction of the environment in Palestine as a result of agricultural practices.
3. The Madaba Plains Project began in 1968 with the Heshbon expedition, an excavation organized by Prof. Siegfried S. Horn of Andrews University and Prof. Roger S. Boraas of Upsala College. Its original aims were twofold: To excavate Tell Hesban to see if it was the Heshbon frequently mentioned in the Old Testament, and to attain for central Transjordan a solid stratigraphic and ceramic baseline. When it became apparent that there was not much found at Tell Hesban that had direct bearing on the biblical Heshbon, the second aim emerged as the primary one. The Hesban Regional Survey, begun in 1973 and concentrating on the region within ten kilometers of Tell Hesban ended up locating 148 archaeological sites--representing the entire span of history in the region.
The food system perspective came to serve as an heuristic device for fitting together the different lines of scientific information. One of the most important outcomes resulting from using this perspective was that it brought into focus the dynamic coexistence of both nomadic and sedentary modes of existence in the project area. The emphasis on the quest for food in a broader sense, not just on agriculture, opened a window on the dynamic shifts over time in the intensity with which people in this region exploited their land and animals to produce food. Out of this insight evolved research on food system intensification and abatement, and the related processes of sedentarization and nomadization.
4. According to Zohary (1962), Trees and shrubs typically found in the Mediterranean forest include Aleppo pine (Pinus haleansis), evergreen Palestinian oak (Quercus calliprinos), deciduous turpentine tree (Pistacia palaestina), juniper (Juniperus phoenicea), Tabor oak (Quercus ithaburensis), hawthorne (Crataegus azarolus), storax (Styrax officinalis), carob (Ceratonia siliqua), and evergreen turpentine tree (Pistacia lentiscus). Less common are almond (Amygdalus communis), pear( Pryus syriaca), plum (Prunus ursina), and olive (Olea europaea). Zohary describes four major tree and shrub groups of the Mediterranean forest--the Aleppo pine forest, the Tabor oak forest, the evergreen oak forest/maquis, and the carob-lenticle forest. Variables such as temperature, rainfall, elevation, and soil type and fertility--which may differ dramatically over short distances--impact the particular genus and species composition of the four tree and shrub groups.
Meiggs (1982) provides a valuable reference on ancient Mediterranean forests. Bernhardt (1985) presents an overview of the natural condition of East Jordan according to Biblical literature. A description of some modern Mediterranean flora may be found in the volume, "Mediterranean-Type Shrublands" edited by Castri, Goodall, and Specht's (1981). Further discussion of the composition of Mediterranean woodland forests and particularly, of recent efforts at management, conservation and regeneration of forests in the region has been done by Gray (1965), Morandini (1977), and Patten (1959).
5. Tomasali (19??) posits a model of vegetation dynamics involving the concepts of degeneration and regeneration (or progressive evolution) of vegetation. In his model (See Fig. 3), degeneration of the climax (i.e. Forest) passes through different stages of degradation until the area is characterized by devastated "bare earth" devoid of natural vegetation. Such degeneration can be caused by the agricultural or other practices of man or by natural causes. However, Tomasali also theorizes that at any stage of the degeneration, progressive evolution may begin if the factor that caused the degeneration is removed. Vegetation in a state of progressive evolution begins to regenerate again towards the climax. Progressive evolution is generally much slower than the process of degeneration, particularly if the land has undergone extreme degradation. However, if the degeneration of the vegetation has not been followed by soil erosion or a drier climate, regeneration may occur quite rapidly.
6. There are several methods of harvesting water common to this area. These include use of rooftops for collecting rain water into domestic cisterns; microcatchment systems for supplying water to agricultural cisterns, kitchen gardens, and water-thirsty plants; terraces for preventing soil erosion and storing water for field crops and orchards; check-dams placed in stream beds to retain the runoff water to be stored in soils; conduit channels for transporting water collected up-slope to down-slope agricultural fields, cisterns, or storage reservoirs; and diversion systems for diverting runoff floodwaters into adjacent agricultural fields. Issar (1979) profiles ancient water supply systems in Jerusalem and Al-Rashid (1979) discusses ancient water tanks in other parts of the Middle East. See also Shanan, Tadmor, and Evanari (1958), Tadmor, Evanari, Shanan, and Hillel (1957), and Zohary (1954).
7. Further discussion of agricultural terraces in Palestine may be found in Edelstein and Gibson (1982), Edelstein and Kislev (1981), Ron (1966), and Stager (1982).
8. Crucial to the sedentarization which occurred during the Greco-Roman millennium was the construction of facilities for collecting and storing water. This was particularly the case at places like Hisban and Madaba where large concentrations of people had to survive the dry season without having easy access to a spring or stream. To begin to meet this challenge, the Romans undertook the construction of several large reservoirs in the major towns, and cisterns were added in great profusion. Evanri, Aharoni, Shanan, and Tadmor (1958) describe several different types of cisterns discovered during excavations in Israel.
9. The common theme of Arab neglect deserves further discussion. It has been suggested that much of the degradation of the landscape occurred as a result of Islamic neglect of the civil and environmental projects installed during the Roman/Byzantine period. To an extent, this is true. However, the process of environmental degradation was far from unabated. In fact, the Islamic period witnessed the regeneration of some forest as evidenced by the presence in the bone finds from this same period of an impressive array of wild, forest-loving birds. Rather than attributing the present conditions of the Jordanian landscape primarily to "centuries of neglect" by ignorant pastoralists and tribal cultivators, the devastating impact of more recent unbridled development, accompanied by unprecedented rates of sedentarization and intensification of agriculture, must also be reckoned with in assigning blame.
10. The reconstructions of the landscape seen in this series of images was generated using Adobe PhotoShop 4.0. The source for the original landscape was a satellite photo of the project area produced by Historical Productions Inc. (courtesy of Richard Cleave). The posited locations of stands of forest represent first approximation guestimates based on available settlement pattern data.
11. The scarcity of sites in the highland region should not lead to the conclusion that there were no settlements here during the Byzantine period. The vast majority of pottery in the soils in this region belong to this period. The reason the sites are gone is due to centuries and millennia of plowing.
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|Random Square #||Vegetation Cover||No. Of Individuals||Species Represented|
|Pinus pinea (w)|
Amygdalus communis (w)
|Capparis spinosa (w)|
Al-hagi marorum (w)
|Capparis spinosa (w)|
Amygdalus communis (w)
Nerium oleander (w)
Al-hagi marorum (w)
Pistacia palaestina (w)
|9||80% in orchard||10-15%
|Nerium oleander (w)|
Olea europaea (w)
Prunus sp. (w)
Crategus azarolus (w)
Crategus azarolus (w)
Al-hagi marorum (w)
|20||20% orchard, 80% field||>50||Olea europaea|
Amygdalus communis (w)
Phoenix dactea (w)
Capparis spinosa (w)
Al-hagi marorum (w)
Nerium oleander (w)
|36||10%||3-5||Crategus azarolus (w)|
|50||50% orchard, 50% field||>25
Amygdalus communis (w)
Amygdalus communis (w)
Capparis spinosa (w)
Amygdalus communis (w)
Amygdalus communis (w)
|Capparis spinosa (w)|
Al-hagi marorum (w)