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Title: Out of sight, but not out of mind : exploring how phytolith and geochemical analysis can contribute to understanding social use of space during the Neolithic in the Levant through ethnographic comparison
Author: Vos, Daniella
ISNI:       0000 0004 6350 2374
Awarding Body: Bournemouth University
Current Institution: Bournemouth University
Date of Award: 2017
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This research evaluates the potential of a geochemical and phytolith dual methodology for identifying activity areas at ephemeral sites, and adds to our understanding of the formation processes involved in the creation and preservation of soil signatures at ephemeral sites situated in dynamic environments. The work focuses on an investigation of the social use of space in temporary contexts using ethnographic and Neolithic case studies in Jordan. The background to this research involves the need for a better understanding of ancient activities at ephemeral sites during the Neolithic in the Near East. Despite the importance of this period, there are still many unanswered questions regarding the dramatic changes in subsistence and lifestyle that are associated with it. The structures built in this period, which in many ways embody the transition from hunter-gatherer societies to farming communities, are difficult to interpret due to their ephemeral nature and scarcity of organic remains. Nevertheless, although the motivation behind this research is achieving a better understanding of the Neolithic in the Near East, its outcomes are widely applicable to studies of ephemeral archaeological sites in various settings. A dual geochemical and phytolith methodology was applied to seven Bedouin campsites at Wadi Faynan, Jordan, which constituted the ethnoarchaeological data. This was done in order to test the methodology in a controlled setting where knowledge of the use of space at the sites was at hand. The campsites were either occupied or abandoned for various lengths of time during sampling. This allowed for a consideration of taphonomic processes involved in the creation and preservation of soil signatures at these sites. The dual methodology was also applied to three of the Neolithic sites of Wadi el- Jilat, Jordan. This was done in order to test the dual methodology on archaeological case studies, assessing its efficacy in identifying activity areas through the soil signatures that were still available at these sites following an abandonment period of more than 8,000 years. The geochemical and phytolith dual methodology was found to be successful in distinguishing activity areas at the ethnoarchaeological and archaeological sites, and carries much potential for future studies of the use of space in ephemeral structures. While previous studies have experimented with the use of multiple geoarchaeological methods for the study of spatial patterning at ethnographic and archaeological sites, this study is the first to address the use of statistical methods to combine the results from two different analysis techniques. The appropriate use of methods for data display and manipulation was found to be important for the successful application of multiple analysis techniques, allowing their results to aid archaeological interpretations of space. This research has contributed to knowledge by establishing the value of a dual geochemical-phytolith methodology for interpreting the use of space at ephemeral sites. Through future applications of this dual methodology and the statistical tools explored in this study, a contribution can also be made to our understanding of the social use of space in sites and during periods which are difficult to interpret.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available