Crop management inferred from Δ13C at Early to Middle Bronze Age Tell Abu en-Ni‘aj and Tell el-Hayyat, Jordan

Authors: Steven Porson*, University of North Carolina - Charlotte, Patricia Fall, University of North Carolina - Charlotte, Steven E. Falconer, University of North Carolina - Charlotte, Suzanne Pilaar Birch, University of Georgia - Athens, Elizabeth Ridder, California State University San Marcos
Topics: Paleoenvironmental Change, Physical Geography
Keywords: archaeobotany, carbon isotope analysis, Southern Levant, Bronze Age, crop management
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


We utilize new δ13C values from carbonized seeds at two archaeological sites in the northern Jordan Valley to explore crop water availability and cultivation practices from the Early to Middle Bronze Ages (site range 2500-1650 cal BC). Analyses of the stratified archaeobotanical assemblages from Tell Abu en-Ni‘aj (Ni‘aj) and Tell el-Hayyat (Hayyat), Jordan support a theme of shifting crop management strategies in sedentary agrarian communities from the Early Bronze IV, a period marked by widespread mobile pastoralism, to the Middle Bronze Age, a period of urban renewal. Seeds from a combined 13 occupation phases indicate taxa-specific differences in crop water availability between the two communities. These well-stratified archaeological sites allow for a uniquely temporal view of intrasite variability of crop management to provide evidence for local changes in ancient crop management. Results suggest cultivation of wheat in notably wetter conditions than barley crops at Early Bronze IV Ni‘aj, but not at Middle Bronze Hayyat. The farmers of Ni‘aj may have practiced dry-farming of barley and provided better water access to wheat crops, while farmers at Hayyat may have farmed them under similar conditions. Preliminary stable isotopic analysis of pulse and orchard crops reveals mixed water availability, potentially suggesting opportunistic rather than preferential watering. This evidence suggests fundamentally different approaches to crop management existed during the Early Bronze IV and Middle Bronze Ages in the Jordan Valley. These data may indicate greater regional drought stress leading to the abandonment of Ni‘aj, before regional abandonment of urban settlements ca. 2200 BC.

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