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  • Cited by 2
  • Print publication year: 1989
  • Online publication date: October 2009

9 - Monitoring interannual variability: an example from the period of early state development in southwestern Iran


This brief paper presents an example of a refuse-filled pit from a rural settlement of the Middle Uruk Period (mid-fourth millennium bc) in south-western Iran, to illustrate the importance of, and potential for, recovering very fine-grained temporal evidence from the archaeological record. The pit provides evidence of seasonal variation in production, consumption and administration. This information is used, in turn, to document the differing responses to successive good and bad years by the rural community.

Evaluating explanations of complex cultural processes often demands precise differentiation of temporal sequences of years, of seasons and – when we seek to utilise the remains of social, ritual or military action – even finer-grained event sequences. It is thus surprising that archaeologists interested in process still fail to analyse, or even to recover, such data. In fact, most archaeological records present opportunities to isolate samples deposited in short spans of time, and the techniques available for ascribing them to specific seasons or years are becoming more diverse all the time.

The Susiana Plain region is an eastward extension of the steppe and alluvial desert environments of Mesopotamia proper. This plain contains more than 1400 km2 of well-drained cultivable soils; during the early periods discussed here, before the three major rivers of the plain entrenched their beds, much of this area could be irrigated with small canals.