Eastern Mediterranean/Near Eastern Geoarchaeology Meeting

Aims of the meeting

Presently, the Eastern Mediterranean/ Near Eastern landscapes are vulnerable and slight environmental changes could have profound impact on human societies. Therefore, the study of the interactions between former societies and their environment could deliver models and help assessing possible future situations. However, too often soil and geomorphological studies lack an archaeological component, which is unfortunate because archaeology can provide dating evidence as well as insights into the process of landscape utilisation through time. Conversely, archaeological studies frequently stop at the edge of the site. Although there are many geoarchaeologists/ geomorphologists/ geographers studying this past people-environment relation in the Near East/Eastern Mediterranean, we feel that better communication would greatly improve our insights into former landscapes, former people-environment interactions and site formation processes. Additionally, we also feel it would be of extreme interest for the geoarchaeologists/ geomorphologists/ geographers to discuss their interpretations within an archaeological research community. Especially, the Graduate Research Group "Anatolia and its Neighbours" and the Department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology of the University of Tübingen provide a forum consisting of leading archaeologists within this area. As a result, not only better communication between the geoarchaeologists/ geomorphologists/ geographers is one of the main objectives of this meeting, but also improved exchange of knowledge between archaeologists.

The approach of the "Eastern Mediterranean/ Near Eastern Geoarchaeology Meeting" is interdisciplinary and papers on a variety of methods will be invited in order to broaden our methodological scopes. Therefore, chronological studies as well as fluvial and eolean geomorphological papers as well as micromorphological investigations and remote sensing and GIS-modelling papers will be accepted. Additionally, studies using new geoarchaeological methods for gaining insight into this past societies-environment relation will be particularly welcomed.

One of the main problems for geoarchaeologists/ geomorphologists/ geographers working in the Eastern Mediterranean/ Near East consists of establishing a geoarchaeological chronology, especially when working off-site. As an example, at the "Mediterranean Quaternary River Environments" conference at the University of Cambridge in 1992, resources emphasized the great need for more fully and reliably dated alluvial sequences in the Mediterranean: "There are still very few river catchments or sites of which any great satisfaction may be expressed concerning the dating of their alluvial bodies. More radiometric dates are needed"…. "Allowing also for the paucity of organic materials in many Mediterranean alluvial sediments, more widespread use of luminescence, magnetic dating and other techniques would also prove extremely helpful." (Lewin et al. 1995, 283). Achieving well-dated geomorphological sequences would contribute to establishing causality in interpretation. As a matter of fact, better data on the chronology of Eastern Mediterranean/Near Eastern geomorphological sequences will increase our understanding of the causes of erosion (Frederick 2001). Climatic impact should be detectable in the geomorphological archive over larger areas. Consequently, the more geomorphological chronologies, exist the better the palaeoclimate will be understood. Several points on the agenda of the meeting consist of contributing to this problem. First, chronological studies improving the dating methods of geomorphological profiles are particularly welcomed at this meeting. Second, it is also an aim of this meeting to detect regional synchronous events, which might be caused by climate. Hence, improving our chronological insight into geoarchaeological sequences is an important objective of this meeting. Indeed, a fine chronological tuning is required between two kinds of data-sets in order to investigate the human-environment interactions: the on-site archaeological occupation evidence and the often off-site geomorphological evidence.

However, not all geoarchaeologists/ geomorphologists/ geographers in the area work off-site. Several new studies, mostly micromorphological, investigate site formation and taphonomic processes. These studies have the advantage of providing well-dated stratified evidence. However, they are often not correlated or correlatable with regional studies. The meeting will make it possible to consider these site-based studies in their wider geographical and geomorphological context and consequently gain increased insight into environmental change in relation to human behaviour.

Already in the sixties, Robert McCormick Adams demonstrated the possibilities of remote sensing for investigating the interactions between human occupation and river evolution in the Near East (cf. Adams 1965, Adams 1981 and Adams and Nissen 1972). With the development of GIS-methodology landscape reconstructions can be dynamically visualised and modelled. However, this task is not straightforward and often lacks the necessary ground control. Therefore, also here, better communication is needed between on the one hand geomorphologists in the field and on the other hand remote sensers and GIS-modellers. This is also one of the aims of the meeting.

As a conclusion, we may say that the meeting aims to increase the communication of knowledge in order to intensify the study of the relationship between past societies and their environment using diverse international and multidisciplinary resources.

List of references

  • Adams, R. Mc. (1965) Land Behind Baghdad. A History of Settlement on the Diyala Plain. Chicago.
  • Adams, R. Mc. (1981) Heartlands of Cities. Surveys of Ancient Settlement and Land Use on the Central Floodplain of the Euphrates. Chicago-London.
  • Adams and Nissen (1972) The Uruk Countryside. The Natural Setting of Urban Societies. Chicago.
  • Frederick, C. (2001) Evaluating Causality of Landscape Change. Example from Alluviation. In: Goldberg, P., Holliday, V.T. and Ferring, C.R. (eds) Earth Sciences and Archaeology. New York, 55-76.
  • Lewin, J.; Macklin, M.G. and Woodward, J.C. (1995) Mediterranean Quaternary River Environments – Some Future Research Needs. In: Lewin, J.; Macklin, M.G. and Woodward, J. (eds) Mediterranean Quaternary River Environments. Rotterdam, 283-284.