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Title: Feeding the city : a comparative study of agricultural production in Bronze Age systems of Western Asia
Author: Diffey, Charlotte
ISNI:       0000 0004 8502 7412
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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The development of large urban societies in Western Asia during the Bronze Age has often been viewed as a pivotal transition in human history. As part of this narrative, however, agriculture and the nature of food production have frequently been relegated to the rural hinterland and divorced from daily life in the city. This research aims to explore the relationship between established early cities and the specific systems of agricultural production needed to sustain them, by assessing the nature of farming practice at two key Bronze Age sites. These two sites, Hattusha in Central Anatolia and Tell Brak in north-eastern Syria, were both major urban centres with large socially stratified populations and control of widespread hinterlands. Additionally, they provide data from two climatic and environmental zones, as well as two different cultural settings, providing the opportunity to investigate the nature of agriculture under a range of variable conditions. The archaeobotanical analysis of stored charred macro-remains assemblages from both sites has provided the opportunity to explore the relationship between crop choice, farming regime and urban society. Compositional, spatial and crop processing analysis has provided information regarding the origins of the material, as well as allowing the assessment of activities and depositional processes that may have formed the assemblages. Furthermore, the analysis of crop stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes combined with the functional ecology of arable weeds has allowed the identification of multiple crop management systems designed by each society. These results have revealed that both cities were reliant on low-input, low variance farming systems, but that within these systems a high level of agricultural variation was present. At Hattusha, correspondence analysis and crop stable isotope analysis have indicated that stored cereals were grown under a range of crop husbandry regimes. This included low-intensity systems characterized by low inputs of water and medium-low inputs of manure, and higher-intensity systems characterized by medium inputs of water and high inputs of manure. The existence of stored cereals grown under multiple regimes may suggest that the inhabitants of Hattusha were pooling resources from different areas within the wider rural hinterland. By contrast, crop stable isotope analysis and functional ecology analysis from Tell Brak have suggested that different species of cultivar were likely to have been grown in different areas of the landscape to maximise the potential arable yield of marginal environmental conditions. Overall, farming within both of these societies appears to have been a dynamic system that was adapted to overcome specific environmental and social challenges whilst also performing a key role in sustaining and supporting the urban population.
Supervisor: Bogaard, Amy ; Charles, Mike Sponsor: Wolfson-Marriott-Archaeology-Graduate Scholarship
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available