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The discovery of a large underground silo complex with spectacular intact grain stores at the Late Bronze Age Hittite capital of Hattusha in Turkey provides a unique snapshot of the mobilisation of crop production by the Hittite state. A combination of primary archaeobotanical analysis, crop stable isotope determinations and functional weed ecology reveals new insights into Hittite cultivation strategies, featuring a range of relatively low-input, extensive production regimes for hulled wheats and hulled barley. Taxation of extensively produced grain in the sixteenth century BC reveals how an ancient state sought to sustain itself, providing wider implications for the politics and ecology of territorially expansive states in Western Asia and beyond.
In much of Europe, the advent of low-input cereal farming regimes between c.ad 800 and 1200 enabled landowners—lords—to amass wealth by greatly expanding the amount of land under cultivation and exploiting the labour of others. Scientific analysis of plant remains and animal bones from archaeological contexts is generating the first direct evidence for the development of such low-input regimes. This article outlines the methods used by the FeedSax project to resolve key questions regarding the ‘cerealization’ of the medieval countryside and presents preliminary results using the town of Stafford as a worked example. These indicate an increase in the scale of cultivation in the Mid-Saxon period, while the Late Saxon period saw a shift to a low-input cultivation regime and probably an expansion onto heavier soils. Crop rotation appears to have been practised from at least the mid-tenth century.
Chapter 7 is an integrated case study showing how the full range of established and novel techniques have been integrated to understand the early farming economies of Central Europe, with particular focus on the LBK culture. This case study shows how such approaches are invaluable in understanding not only diet and subsistence, but also social issues of identity and inheritance.
Chapter 5 discusses how the study of ancient genetics has contributed specifically to our understanding economic issues through the sequencing of human, plant and animal DNA. It discusses the next generation sequencing and whole genome revolutions, the study of domestication events, migration and health, as well as some of the precautions needed to avoid pitfalls encountered in some earlier studies.
Chapter 3 deals with the stable isotope revolution and considers how isotopic approaches can best be integrated with more established forms of zooarchaeological and archaeobotanical evidence. This chapter also considers latest developments in this field and how they might further revolutionise our understanding.
Chapter 4 is about the organic residue analysis, both of lipids and proteins, concentrating particularly on the identification of foods and other substances absorbed into pottery vessels, but also considers dental calculus. The chapter considers the middle range theory behind reaching conclusions regarding diet from the reconstructing the past contents of a particular class of material culture.
Chapter 9 concludes by revisiting the key ideas of the palaeoeconomy school to evaluate their continued relevance and also discusses how to strike the best balance in theoretical approach between economic, environmental, social and cultural factors. The volume ends with a discussion of up and coming challenges and opportunities in the field.
Chapter 8 presents another integrated case study addressing the origins of domestic horses and pastoralism in Central Asia, focussing on modern day Kazakhstan during the Eneolithic and Bronze Age. As well as discussing issues of animal domestication it also considers questions of mobility and aspects of social zooarchaeology amongst pastoralists.
Chapter 2 addresses the divisive issue of ‘environmental determinism’ and provides a critical consideration of models and approaches such as site catchment analysis, behavioural ecology, carrying capacity and niche construction theory. It considers when determinism is and is not valid and how to use models as an effective framework in both economic and cultural contexts.
Chapter 6 deals with how the microscopic study of phytoliths starch grains has revolutionised our understanding of archaeobotany in (sub)tropical regions as well has how these techniques might add further to research in other environments.
Chapter 1 considers the origins and development of economic approaches to archaeology paying particular attention to the Cambridge ‘palaeoeconomy’ school of the 1960s and 70s. It draws out the key achievements and legacies of that time as well addressing post-processual criticism.
Over the last thirty years, new scientific techniques have revolutionised our understanding of prehistoric economies. They enable a sound comprehension of human diet and subsistence in different environments, which is an essential framework for appreciating the rich tapestry of past human cultural variation. This volume first considers the origins of economic approaches in archaeology and the theoretical debates surrounding issues such as 'environmental determinism'. Using globally diverse examples, Alan K. Outram and Amy Bogaard critically investigate the best way to integrate newer lines of evidence such as ancient genetics, stable isotope analysis, organic residue chemistry and starch and phytolith studies with long-established forms of archaeobotanical and zooarchaeological data. Two case study chapters, on early Neolithic farming in Europe, and the origins of domestic horses and pastoralism in Central Asia, illustrate the benefit of a multi-proxy approach and how economic considerations feed into broader social and cultural questions.
This article advances the hypothesis that the transformation of farming from a labour-limited form to a land-limited form facilitated the emergence of substantial and sustained wealth inequalities in many ancient agricultural societies. Using bioarchaeological and other relevant evidence for the nature of ancient agrosystems, the authors characterise 90 Western Eurasian site-phases as labour- vs land-limited. Their estimates of wealth inequality (the Gini coefficient), which incorporate data on house and household storage size and individual grave goods—adjusted for comparability using new methods—indicate that land-limited farming systems were significantly more unequal than labour-limited ones.