— PhD Candidate (ABD), Department of Anthropology, University of Texas at austin
BA Anthropology, University of British Columbia Okanagan, 2007.
MA Archaeolgy, University of Calgary, 2010.
Entered Program: Fall 2012 (transfered from University College London with advisor)
Advisor: Arlene Rosen
Early Levantine hunter-gatherers lived in a world largely unrecognizable from our own, yet we have inherited the compounding consequences of a constructed environment rooted in the legacy of Epipaleolithic (23,000-11,500 cal. BP) innovation, including the first huts, intensive plant-food processing and landscape modification. These otherwise obscure dynamics of human culture can be observed by studying how people used plants in the past. For this dissertation I employ micro-botanical techniques, analyzing phytolith and starch evidence, to investigate the long-term patterns of Epipaleolithic plant-use in the Eastern Levant, present day Jordan. These findings detail how Epipaleolithic hunter-gatherers used, modified, and changed their environment.
While it is recognized that human-environment interactions increased at the start of the Holocene (10,000 cal. BP) (Smith 2011, 836), this dissertation argues that as early as the late Pleistocene (ca. 23,000 cal. BP), Epipaeoloithic peoples were actively engaged in a dynamic and reciprocal relationship with their environment. During this period the region experienced extreme shifts in climate due to the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). The relationship between people and the environment under the abruptly changing climate of the Late Pleistocene Levant has been referred to by many authors investigating Epipaleolithic use of wild cereals as a prelude to cultivation, but until recently it has rarely been the focus of studies investigating hunter-gatherer adaptations and diverse wild plant collection strategies. This is due, in part, to the poor preservation of macro-botanical remains at Epipaleolithic sites, with the exception of Ohalo II, Israel.
To address this gap in research, I am analyzing phytoliths and starches from sites in the eastern Levant, and comparing these to the phytoliths and starches from Ohalo II. This research has the potential to provide a baseline for future micro-botanical studies in the region and could make a considerable contribution to current arguments about the importance of the wetland to Epipaleolithic adaptations (Rosen 2012, 2013, Olszewski 2000, Olszewski and Coinman 1998, Jones and Richter 2011, Richter et al. 2013, Cordova et al. 2013). The temporal and regional breadth of the sites in my study provides a unique platform from which I aim to consider the dynamic and reciprocal relationship between the changing Pleistocene environment and hunter-gatherer plant-use in the Levant, contributing to broader discussions of hunter-gatherer resilience and adaptation in abruptly changing environments.