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Feeding the Periphery: Modeling Early Bronze Age Economies and the Cultural Landscape of the Faynan District, Southern Jordan


The current study investigates the evolution of southern Levantine societies during the Early Bronze Age (ca 3600 - 2000 BCE). This study contributes to the reinvestigation of the food systems concept, a concept that addresses the interconnectivity of subsistence strategies and the larger natural and social environment. Investigating complex social processes within a food systems approach is not a new concept, but few systematic frameworks have modeled the scope and structure of varying levels of systems -- food, social and environmental -- as an integrated whole. The theoretical foundations of the food systems concept draws on systems theory to model social organization, procedures, activities, and technologies that human groups use to extract matter and energy from their environment. Agents and cultural transmission are key components to social evolution. This model draws attention to the agents responsible for making choices within their social structure. Many of these choices and decisions are epiphenomenal, but some are incorporated into their everyday practices, are transmitted over time and space, and result in change. Finally, the model incorporates data from the Wadi Faynan region in southern Jordan with site faunal data from the Early Bronze I (ca. 3600 - 3300 BCE) village of Wadi Fidan 4 and the Early Bronze III/IV (ca. 2700 - 2000 BCE) village of Khirbat Hamra Ifdan. Analytical methods applied to each case study assemblage clarify the relationship between humans and the animals used for food and secondary products within their social and natural environment. Archaeological and faunal investigations reveal the beginnings of specialized food production occurred at the village settlement of Wadi Fidan 4 in the EBIa. While archaeological evidence for the EBII period is lacking in this region, the EB III site of Khirbat Hamra Ifdan represents the largest copper manufactory in the Near East. The intensification of production at this site was accompanied by an intensification of food resources. Feeding the inhabitants at the site resulted in the exploitation of domestic and wild animals both at the local and regional level. This type of exploitation pattern continues during the EB IV, a period of social collapse, although at a lesser scale. In the Faynan region during the entire sequence of Early Bronze Age, subsistence strategies reflect a more specialized herding economy within this specialized copper producing region then previously believed. Additionally, synthesis of the case studies disclose this localized, marginal, and peripheral area along the rift valley played a larger role in the formation of regional alliance networks. The case studies utilized in this research fill a significant gap in our understanding of the nature of societies in the Faynan district of this important copper production region of the southern Levant.

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