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Title: Crop watering practices in the Neolithic and Bronze Age : the stable carbon isotope approach
Author: Wallace, Michael Paul
ISNI:       0000 0004 2740 8284
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2011
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In the ancient past, agriculture was central to the daily routines of life and economic organisation. The major limiting factor on crop production in dry regions, such as Western Asia, is the availability of water. In these regions. rainfed crops are susceptible to drought-induced failure and, while farmers can water their crops artificially, this places demands on labour and water supplies. The effort and resources afforded to crops by farmers can indicate the scale of production. whereas the preferential treatment of certain crops over others offers insights into the cultural and economic role of different crops. There are a variety of methods by which crop water status can be inferred from archaeological evidence. One such method is stable carbon isotope analysis of charred crop remains, which are ubiquitous at archaeological sites in dry regions. This thesis assesses the utility of stable carbon isotope analysis as a means of inferring crop water status. Experiments were conducted to establish the relationship between isotopic ratios and water status in modern crops grown in known conditions. Laboratory tests were also undertaken to determine the extent to which isotopic ratios may be altered post-mortem. In light of the findings from these experiments, isotopic analysis was carried out on crop remains from nine archaeological sites, primarily located in Western Asia and of Neolithic and Bronze Age date. Natural variation. unknown differences in growing conditions and plant physiology, and small post- mortem alterations, limit the precision with which crop water status can be inferred from stable carbon isotope ratios. Nevertheless, stable carbon isotope analysis can provide a reliable indication of the water status of ancient crops. On this basis. it is possible to develop interpretations regarding agricultural arrangements at individual sites, and to identify regional trends in ancient crop production.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available