Based on the mostly unpublished finds of a 1970s excavation and the initial results of a 2020 survey and excavation of the remains of an Early Islamic Plot-and-Berm (P&B) agroecosystem south of ancient Caesarea/Qaysāriyya, this study discusses the agricultural incorporation of refuse in a pristine aeolian sand environment. The P&B agroecosystem, characterized by anthro-terrain/ earthworks of sunken agricultural plots delimited by sand berms, comprises an innovative initiative to cultivate dunefields on a high groundwater table. The key element for the sustainability of this unique agrotechnology was refuse. The refuse, extracted from nearby town dumps, included ash, carbonate, trace elements and artifacts. It was probably sorted into small artifacts and grey loam. It was then brought to the fields, not only combined to stabilize the erodible and initially unvegetated berm surface until today, but also partly altered the physical and chemical properties of the sand and increased its fertility, mainly in the plots, to form sandy loam anthrosols. The pristine aeolian sand substrate enabled a clear and quantitative stratigraphic and pedological differentiation of the refuse additions. The transportation of human waste to the fields and its incorporation into the natural sediment to form an anthrosol formed part of the “waste stream” of Caesarea’s Early Islamic population. Such human-modified soil environments by means of manuring, gained a specific signature and would have been considered “soil places” which became part of the local onomasticon of placenames and probably created “cultural soilscapes.” The clear aeolian sandy substrate makes the P&B agroecosystems an excellent case study on soil enrichment by refuse, and enlightens us about the relative amounts and methodologies of refuse extraction, sorting, transportation, and incorporation.
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- Early Islamic agriculture
- aeolian sand and dunes
- architectural reuse
- refuse management
- water harvesting