The political ecology and resilience of medieval peasant communities in the southern Levant : micro-botanical perspectives




Laparidou, Sofia

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Peasant and rural society is a new focus of medieval Islamic archaeology in Jordan. New surveys and excavations conducted on geographically and historically distinct regions of Jordan consider state-level agricultural investment but are also interested in documenting rural life and land use in medieval Jordan. This new research is relevant to the discourse on medieval Political Ecology of Jordan because of its focus on state investment in intensive land use, including irrigation and diversion of local agricultural economies from subsistence crops to cash crops and the effects that state agriculture had on peasantry and the environment. Archaeology offers a deep-time perspective on these issues. In this dissertation, I use phytoliths to understand agricultural practices of Medieval Jerash, Hisban (Mediterranean vegetation zone), Shuqayra al-Gharbiyya, Tawahin as-Sukkar, Khirbet as-Sheikh Isa, and Beidha (semi-arid region of the Jordan Valley) to offer new insights into state agricultural policies in relation to ecological and environmental history. My results show that control of irrigable land by subsistence farmers gave them resilience and contributed to sustainable farming. However, state-managed agricultural systems expropriated irrigable land, emphasizing production of cash crops for state revenue, thus reducing sustainability and putting pressure on the landscape. Sugarcane production replaced cereal cultivation and led to wood fuel burning, which in turn resulted in landscape erosion. Phytoliths from Beidha indicate that intensive agricultural production extended to marginal areas with the use of irrigation, thus creating greater human impact on sensitive environments.



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