— PhD Student, Department of Anthropology, University of Texas at austin
My research uses innovative microbotanical techniques to explore palaeolithic hunter-gatherer (30,000-14,700 BP) plant-use in the Eastern Levant. During this period the region experienced extreme shifts in climate due to the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) (26,500-19,000 BP). Researchers have been unable to find direct evidence of ancient plant-use in palaeolithic contexts because preservation of macroscopic plant tissues is poor. A waterlogged site on the Sea of Galilee, Ohalo II (19,300 BP) is a unique exception. Macrobotanical analysis has yielded a diverse range of plant taxa, including hundreds of charred wild barley, emmer and grass grains. Lower ranked resources, their use is evidence for a broadening of the diet and represents the first step towards sedentism and agriculture. This comparative study will explore palaeolithic plant-use on a broad scale by analyzing phytoliths and starch grains gathered from sediments at Ohalo II and six other Levantine sites. It will establish whether the intensive use of wild cereals and grasses at Ohalo II was unique or a wider Leventine phenomenon, providing evidence of plant-use stratigies utilized before, during and after the LGM. Ultimately, the increased use of wild cereal and grass grains by hunter-gatherers led to cereal cultivation, sedentism and agriculture, a transition of global significance.