Experimental Crop Growing in Jordan to Develop A Methodology for the Identification of Ancient Crop Irrigation
Authors: Mithen, S.J., Jenkins, E.L., Jamjoum, K., Nuimat, S. and Finlayson, B.
Journal: World Archaeology
Crop irrigation has long been recognised as having been important for the evolution of social complexity in several parts of the world. Structural evidence for water management, such as wells, ditches and dams are often difficult to interpret and may be a poor indicator of past irrigation that may have had no need for such constructions. It would be of considerable value, therefore, to be able to infer past irrigation directly from archaeo-botanical remains, and especially the type of archaeo-botanical remains that are relatively abundant in the archaeological record, such as phytoliths. Building on the pioneering work of Rosen & Wiener (1994), this paper describes a crop growing experiment designed to explore the impact of irrigation on the formation of phytoliths within cereals. If it can be shown that a systemic and consistent relationship exists between phytolith size, structure and the intensity of irrigation, and if various taphonomic and palaeoenvironmental processes can be controlled for, then the presence of past irrigation can feasibly be inferred from the phytoliths recovered from the archaeological record.
Preferred by: Emma Jenkins