Reconstructing and interpreting ancient crop management practices : ethnobotanical investigations into traditional dryland farming in northern Jordan
This study is an exploration of agricultural decision-making and an investigation into the effects of different crop management practices on weed composition. The aim of this research is to enable the reconstruction of ancient crop management practices from archaeological weed assemblages and to inform archaeological interpretation, i.e. to interpret what the identified ancient crop management practices may imply. This particular Investigation focuses on con temporary and recent 'traditional' farmers in northern Jordan. The first aspect of this study looks at agricultural practice and agricultural decision making. In order to sustain agricultural production farmers rotate their crops - typically with a period of bare, or cultivated, fallow. The choice of crop rotation regime (and indeed, how crops are managed during the agricultural year) is affected not only by environmental factors but also by cultural and social factors. For example, contemporary farmers who own livestock often cultivate legume crops rather than practice fallow between wheat years. On the other hand, short-falls in labour can result in the elimination of legumes from a crop rotation regime. In the past 60 years, the system of land tenure in the study area has profoundly changed - from communal to private ownership - and this also has affected crop management practices. The implications of these observations for archaeological Interpretation are assessed. The second aspect of this study examines the way different crop management practices affect weed composition. Although the main factor affecting weed composition was found to be vegetation zone, there was also some indication that crop management practices do indeed affect weed composition, but further substantiation is required. There is evidence that cultivated fallow favours the presence of weeds which can germinate in either autumn or spring whilst continuous cultivation encourages the establishment of perennial weeds. In both cases, tilage - the number of episodes and the timing of the operations - would seem to be the key factor. The way these results can be developed in the future are discussed.