Sustainable farming in the Roman-Byzantine period: Dating an advanced agriculture system near the site of Shivta, Negev Desert, Israel

Yotam Tepper, Naomi Porat, Guy Bar-Oz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Ancient agricultural systems in the Negev Desert preserves abundant evidence of dryland farming from the Roman, Byzantine and Early Islamic periods. These systems consist of dams, field plots, field towers, cisterns and thousands of human-made stone mounds. In the environment of Shivta, these systems also included built dovecotes to produce dung to fertilize vineyards and orchards. All of these elements established an intensive agronomic practice. Extensive survey and excavations in one completely preserved agricultural system in a small wadi in the hinterland of Shivta, followed by OSL dating of loess accumulations in the adjacent agricultural installations, in addition to dates from archaeological finds, revealed clear stratigraphic and chronological sequences. We found that the first human-made components were established in the Roman period (1st–2nd centuries CE) and the agricultural system flourished during the Byzantine period (5th–6th centuries CE) before it was abandoned in the post-Byzantine era. At its peak, all artificial components of the system would have had to operate together at an optimum level to make intensive agriculture possible. This agricultural system is a prime example of the enormous skill and knowledge of Shivta farmers in synergizing different agricultural installations to maintain agriculture in a desert environment.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number104134
JournalJournal of Arid Environments
Volume177
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2020

Keywords

  • Desert agronomy
  • Landscape modification
  • Negev desert
  • Roman-Byzantine periods
  • Sustainable agriculture

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology

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