Byzantine-early islamic agricultural systems in the negev highlands: Stages of development as interpreted through osl dating

Gideon Avni, Naomi Porat, Yoav Avni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations

Abstract

An extensive survey followed by OSL (optically stimulated luminescence) dating of loess accumulation in agricultural terraces at six Byzantine and Early Islamic sites in the Negev Highlands revealed clear stratigraphic and chronological sequences. Traditionally dated to the 1st-7th centuries A.D., results from the present study demonstrate that the construction and use of largescale agricultural systems took place in the 4th-11th centuries A.D. This new chronology provides the framework for a more precise interpretation of the circumstances of construction and demise of largescale agriculture in the Negev Highlands. The agricultural fields were exploited continuously, yet ancient farmers had to confront the environmental hazards of occasional intensive floods, successive years of drought, and a constant process of loess accumulation and erosion. The constant maintenance and repair of fields necessitated an investment of labor. However, it seems that the expansion of ancient agriculture was part of the natural growth and development of Byzantine settlements in the Negev, and not the outcome of planned government enterprise. The agricultural systems were abandoned in the course of the 11th century A.D. and sporadically reused by pastoral nomads.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)332-346
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Field Archaeology
Volume38
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Agricultural terraces
  • Byzantine-early islamic periods
  • Levant
  • Negev
  • Osl dating

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