Articles, Blog

William Sumner Memorial Lecture | Melinda Zeder | What Braidwood Got Right

August 15, 2019

Good evening. Hello. Hello, my name is
Matt Welton. I am the membership manager here at the Oriental Institute and I’d
like to welcome you to the William Sumner Memorial Lecture. 2019–2020
promises to be a very special year for the Oriental Institute as we celebrate
our centennial anniversary. If anyone out there is not currently a member I invite
you to join us for that very special year. We’ll have heightened programmings
and events throughout that academic year so please if you have any questions I
will be available in the reception after the lecture. Grab me and I’d be more than
happy to talk membership to you. At this time I’d like to invite up to the podium
Sue Geshwender, the volunteer manager. Thank You Matt. Hello I am here to
recruit one last time for OI docent training. So please consider joining us
for training this summer to become an Oriental Institute tour guide. We are
lining up such a fabulous program. We have just the best speakers already
committed, including Abbas Alizadeh, Jean Evans, McGuire Gibson, Susanne
Paulus, Robert Ritner, Martha Roth, David Schloen, Foy Scalf, so many more.
We just have an excellent program. Applications are due May 1st and
training is held on Mondays here at the OI in June and July and we only hold
training every other year so if you don’t do it now you’re gonna have to
wait until 2021, so don’t wait. If you are interested in an intellectual challenge
while doing good works this is really where you should be. Anyway I would love
to talk to you about it at the reception so please come find me if you have any
questions. Being an OI docent has been one of the most rewarding and enriching
things I have done and I think you will have the same experience. So alright
that’s my final pitch until 2021. And now it is my pleasure to introduce
the John A. Wilson professor and director of the Oriental Institute, Chris Woods. Thanks a lot, Sue. Good evening everyone,
I’d like to welcome you to this our first lecture, members’ lecture, of the
Spring Quarter and importantly our inaugural William Sumner memorial
lecture on Iranian archaeology. I’d like to begin by expressing our profound
gratitude on behalf of all of us at the Oriental Institute to Dr. John Alden for
his wonderful support of this lecture in memory of his friend, colleague, and
fellow archaeologist, the late Bill Sumner. Bill Sumner, as many of you well
know, was Director of the OI from 1989 to 1997. Bill, a specialist in ancient
Iran, directed excavations at the site of Tal-e Malyan, ancient Anshan in the Fars
province of western Iran from 1972 to ’78 and he oversaw a series of publications
based on his five seasons of excavations there. The Malyan archaeological project
was seminal not only for the discovery of the highland Elamite city of Anshan,
but also for uncovering the cycles of nomadism and sedentism in the region of
Fars that operated from the 5th millennium BCE. As director of the OI
for 8 years, Bill’s term was absolutely
transformative. He carried out our building, the building of our new wing,
and the complete redesign of our permanent galleries which together
really represented the largest expansion of the OI since the founding of
this building in 1931. He promoted the use of computational and scientific
technologies and had the vision to foresee the importance of digital
communication and publication and really laid the foundations
for these developments that would be pursued here at the OI in the following
decade. Now it is my pleasure to introduce tonight’s speaker, Dr. Melinda
Zeder, who did her—actually did her dissertation research with Bill Sumner
at Malyan. Melinda is one of the world’s foremost archaeologists and her
zoo archaeological research has revolutionized our understanding of
animal domestication and the human transition from foraging to farming that
this entailed. Melinda is senior scientist and curator of Old World
Archaeology Emeritus in the Department of Anthropology of the National Museum
of Natural History, the Smithsonian Institution. Her research interests
include the domestication of plants and animals and the origins of agriculture.
Her work has also focused on the social and environmental implications of early
agriculture in the ancient Near East and the development of specialized
subsistence economies of early complex societies. Additionally, Melinda’s
research concerns the intersection of archaeology and genetics, in documenting
the domestication of plant and animal species. Notably her recent work has
explored the use of domestication as a model system to evaluate core
assumptions of extended evolutionary synthesis. Melinda received her PhD from
the University of Michigan in 1985. She came to the Smithsonian in 1981 as a
pre-doctoral fellow and was a Smithsonian research associate from 1982
until 1989. She was Deputy Chair of the Smithsonian’s Department of Anthropology
from ’89 to ’92, and in 1992 she assumed the position of research scientist in
the archaeo-biology program which she directed from 2002 to 2010. Melinda’s work has—has worked extensively in the Middle East including in Iran, Israel,
Turkey, and Syria. She’s author of the book Feeding Cities: Specialized Animal Economy in the Ancient Near East,
and is the lead editor of the 2006 book Documenting Domestication: New Genetic
and Archaeological Paradigms. Melinda has a really truly impressive record of
awards, accolades, and recognition for her research and standing in the field. She
is a past president of the International Council of Archaeozoology as a member
of their Committee of Honor. She is also a fellow of the American Association for
the Advancement of Science and a former member of the National Geographic
Society Committee for Research and Exploration. In 1997 she was awarded the
American Anthropological Association Gordon Wylie Award for outstanding
publication in archaeology and she was the 2001 recipient of the Fryxell
Award, an interdisciplinary research, awarded by the American Archaeology—the
Society of American Archaeology—for lifetime achievement in zooarchaeology.
In 2016 the Archaeological Institute of America awarded Melinda the Pomerance
Medal for scientific contributions in archaeology and she was elected to the
American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2008 and to the National Academy of
Sciences in 2012. In tonight’s talk in honor of the memory and achievements of
Bill Sumner, Melinda will reevaluate the work of two other legendary OI figures,
Bob and Linda Braidwood, in light of new scientific methods. So
with that please join me in welcoming welcoming Dr. Melinda Zeta. Oh, I feel really old after all that.
Thank you, Chris, for the really warm and lovely introduction and thank you all
for coming, and it’s just a huge pleasure to have been asked to deliver this
inaugural lecture of the William Sumner memorial lecture series. I’m forever
grateful to Bill for taking a chance on a green 21-year-old undergraduate by
entrusting the analysis of the animal bones from Tal-e Malyan to me over. As a
part of the Malyan crew I participated in three seasons of excavation at the
site, where I got a really first-hand appreciation for Bill’s wonderful
leadership: his vision, his consummate organizational skills. As part of my
dissertation committee he really was very instrumental in helping me make the
case how a hundred thousand sheep and goat loans could actually have something
to say about specialized urban economy— no easy trick. I’m sure he brought this
same skill set to you all here at the OI, his drive,
his insight, his vision. I’m sure he’s greatly missed. But tonight,
I’d like to talk about another Oriental Institute icon,
Robert Braidwood, and outline how we have now after really a long period, a very
convoluted period of changing theory and explanation, come full circle to
recognizing just how prescient his remarkable pioneering work on the
agricultural origins really truly was. Braidwood’s research was directed at
better understanding the origins of village life supported by agriculture. In
particular he was interested in testing this guy’s theory, Gordon Child’s theory,
the so-called propinquity theory for agricultural origins that held that
agriculture developed during a period a post-Pleistocene climatic desiccation
that brought people together with the progenitors of future domesticates in
places like river valleys and oases where they were forced into symbiotic
relationships that then went on to develop into domestication. Instead of
river valleys, Braidwood targeted a region that he
very evocatively labeled the “hilly flanks” of the Fertile Crescent, which was
the term actually that Breasted himself came up with, Fertile Crescent,
and this is an arc of foothills and inner montane valleys that stretch up
the Zagros across the eastern Taurus and down through the Levant. Over the course
of three field seasons in Iraqi Kurdistan, from ’48 to ’55, Robert and Linda
Braidwood, who was his partner in all things, oversaw an ambitious research
program seeking to capture this transition from hunting and gathering to
agriculture. Excavations focused primarily at this hilltop site of Jarmo
with its upper levels that were comprised of a pottery-age Neolithic
village, very well-established village, with lower levels that belong to an
earlier aceramic Neolithic village. In addition, the team discovered, and in some
cases actually excavated, a number of sites earlier than Jarmo, including the
site of Palegawra cave that represents a local so-called Zarzian tradition of
the Upper Paleolithic, along with a number of smaller round house
settlements — Karim Shahir, Gird Chai, M’lefaat — that belonged to an even earlier phase of the aceramic Neolithic than the lower levels at Jarmo. They
also worked at sites that post-date Jarmo including Hassuna-age Matarrah and
Halafian-age Banahilk. Now Braidwood recognized that he needed
input from natural scientists to be able to really characterize the environmental
context of initial agricultural origins and also to be able to identify the
remains of both wild and domestic animals in the materials that they
recovered in their excavations. So he invited a number of these fellows to
come along and join the expedition. Among them was Herb Wright as geologist,
later joined by Charlie Reed, a zoologist, and then Hans Helbaek, shown here as botanist. Excavations in the upper levels at Jarmo produce really clear evidence
of domesticated wheat and barley with their very distinctive non-shattering
seed heads—a really definitive marker of domestication. They also found the
horn cores of sheep and goats, the inner bone of a horn, that are characteristic
of domestic animals. Evidence of domesticates was lacking in the earlier
aceramic levels at Jarmo as well as at the even earlier sites such as Karim Shahir. However, because of the great quantity of ground stone tools at these
sites, Braidwood reasoned that these people belonged in a phase, as he called
it, of incipient cultivation. So, to Braidwood, that meant he had really
captured his goal of getting this transition from hunting and gathering to
agriculture. Political issues made it impossible for the team to return to
Iraq so in 1960 they moved across the border to Kermanshah Iran, where they
continued with this program of survey and excavation and natural science
reconnaissance. The sites here again span this transition from hunting and
gathering to agriculture, including a small site called Asiab where they
discovered traces of an oval house but also ground and chip stone tools similar
to those that they’d found across the border at Karim Zahir and Sarab another
small site but this time with pottery and material culture that looked like it
was contemporary with the upper levels at Jermel they also found the horns of
domestic goats at the site but no domestic cereals by 1960 Braidwood was
able to draw the following conclusions about the origin of Agriculture in the
Fertile eastern Fertile Crescent first he concluded that climate was not a
forcing factor in agricultural origins herb Wright’s research on the retreat of
Ice Age glaciers had shown that by 12,000 years ago these upland regions of
the Zagros Mountains were pretty habitable probably with a climate very
much like today this conclusion was buttress by the remains of animals and
plants recovered from these sites that really resembled the wild plants and
animals that his natural scientists had encountered on their reconnaissance
there was then no evidence for the climatic desiccation called for in
childs propinquity theory moreover since these phase
conditions had were established well before abrade woods phase of incipient
cultivation climate change was also discounted as a positive factor that may
have pulled people toward agriculture as they’d seen in the upper levels at
Jermel ii Braidwood concluded that agriculture was developed within the
natural habitat of the wild progenitors of future domestic plants and animals
this reason served as his so-called nuclear zone a good term for the 50s and
60s during the Cold War which came about as a result as he put it the increased
ability of people to settle down and settle into a variety of environments
where they then gained an accumulating and very rich lore of familiarity with
things that they encountered like wild cereals and other plants sheep goat
cattle and pigs third Braidwood reason that even though people had experienced
similar climatic conditions during earlier interglacial periods they did
not possess the technological know-how needed to take advantage of these
favourable conditions it was only after culture had evolved to a certain point
of sophistication that this was possible domestication didn’t come about before
then because as he put it culture was not yet ready to achieve it
fourth the Neolithic package of domesticated crops in livestock
diffused out of this nuclear zone outward wherever the environmental
situation a fourth allowed it to go and while he acknowledged that favourable
conditions existed in the Levant where early work was going on there I he
nonetheless singled out the eastern Fertile Crescent as a primary center for
agricultural emergence and its subsequent spread through secondary
centers in Southwest Asia Anatolia and beyond well with continuing political
uncertainties in Iraq and the failure of the Iran project to locate a Jarmo like
site Braidwood shifted his focus to southeastern Turkey where he began a
several decade long collaboration with a Turkish archeologist Hollett Sean Bell
at the site of Chaya knew over 16 seasons
at this site excavators have encountered five levels of a ceramic Neolithic
occupation distinguished by variations in architecture with its first level
being a round house faced with a lot of parallels to the round houses that
Braidwood had found in Iran in Iraq followed by four levels of progressively
more rectangular houses topped off by a very thin layer of pottery Neolithic
moreover the site also contained increasing evidence of domesticated
plants and animals but even earlier at Jermel Braidwood really knew how to pick
his sites he was a very lucky guy always came back with the goods however other
people carried on exploring agricultural origins in the Iranian Zagros two of
these were Young Turks students of Braidwood Frank hull and Kent Flannery
who had participated in the Iranian project now as students sometimes do
maybe even often do whole and flannery set out to disprove Brad Woods original
model of agricultural origins engaging in a practice that Flannery would come
to label as standing on the shoulders of giants while while doing something
indelicate on their heads in this pursuit they co-opted an alternative
demographic disequilibrium theory proposed by Louis Benford who had a
short and as I understand it somewhat turbulent career here at the University
of Chicago a theory that saw agricultural rising not out of
opportunity as Braidwood did but out of necessity in adapting this theory to the
Zagros Flannery proposed that post Pleistocene climate change there created
a mosaic of environments throughout the region with people drawn to the more
optimal parts of this environment where they focused on high-return plant and
animal species as well as being supplemented by an array of less
profitable resources things like wild cereals and small game something
Flannery called the broad spectrum revolution as increasing population
began to put pressure on the carrying capacity of this more favorable zone
small groups began to venture out into more sparsely occupied less subtle
areas carrying with them the resources on which they’d relied in the optimal
zone as well as the technological know-how that they needed to ensure
their success in these less favorable conditions techniques that led to their
domestication to test this alternative theory from 61 to 65 they took a page
from bread woods book and conducted survey and excavation and reconnaissance
both in braid woods nuclear zone where they excavated a number of Upper
Paleolithic sites as well as on the hot arid daily run plane which was located
well outside the natural habitat for sheep and goat and cereals where they
founded a couple of sites Ollie coach and Tippi sobs that span the period from
the a ceramic Neolithic up into the pottery Neolithic the earliest levels at
the site of Ollie coach produced domestic wheat and barley they also
found evidence of domestic sheep and goat in this very aptly named boos Morda
phase or the dead goat phase which was the conclusion they based on harvest
profiles of these animals that showed the culling of younger animals a
practice that is the same as that used by modern herders today they also noted
a progressive change in the size and shape of horns from the wild form to the
domestic although radiocarbon dating was very much in its infancy during this
time they argued nonetheless at a series of dates that they’d obtained from Ollie
coach put the appearance of domesticates here earlier than at Jarmo something
that braid would always hotly-contested thus lending support to their theory
that the initial domestication took place in marginal areas outside abrade
woods nuclear zone other expeditions to the Zagros in the 50s to the 70s
included another husband and wife team Ralph and Rose selects excavations at
shanidar cave with its long and intermittent occupation from the middle
Paleolithic up to recent times they also worked at the nearby open air site of
Zurich Emmy Shannon or a site with round houses and material culture similar to
that of Kareem Shahir in Brad woods incipient cultivation
phase in 1964 there’s oh archaeologists produced a brief report on the fauna
from Sally Kimmi that made us still to this day very controversial case for a
very early sheep domestication based on a great quantity of bones from immature
animals at Highland elevation gangster ray Philip Smith encountered five levels
of occupation beginning with a level of amorphous pips and ashlee deposits
followed by four levels of rectilinear mud brick houses
brian has so archaeologists for this project determined that gangster a
inhabitants herded domestic goat based on demographic profiles that indicated
the selective culling of young males excavators also found barley in the
earliest levels at this site Pater Mortensen’s excavations at Tepe Goren
and later on Jew this pool ours work at Abdul Hussein both encountered this same
shift from ephemeral pits and ashlee deposits up to to more substantial
rectilinear architecture however in 1978-79 the Iranian
Revolution followed by the iran-iraq war drew a curtain on archaeological
research in the Zagros both by Western and Iranian led teams a hiatus of
research that was going to last 25 years after the Iranian Revolution the focus
of research on agricultural origins shifted to the Western Fertile Crescent
this work was conducted during a period of time that also saw steadily improving
understanding of the Paleo environmental context of initial agricultural origins
near the insights into global climate change given by the Greenland ice cores
painted a whole new picture of the complex and turbulent changes that
occurred during the course of the Late Pleistocene and into the Holocene the
picture that was emerging looks something like this the last glacial
maximum at about twenty four thousand years ago was followed by a period of
gradual warming and increasing precipitation that peaked during at
about fifteen thousand years ago during the bowling alley rod period then
about twelve thousand seven hundred years ago there was an abrupt return to
cold dry conditions the sort of last gasp of the Ice Age known as the Younger
Dryas this climatic downturn ended just as abruptly as it began about a thousand
years later we think once again increasing temperatures and
precipitation that marked the beginning of our current Holocene era
moreover pollen cores from Lake zarab are in Iranian Kurdistan oops not get
back to that and from Lake who lay in the Jordan Valley revealed major
regional differences in the responses to these changing climatic conditions in
the Levant with its much more moderate Mediterranean climate even at the height
of the last ice age when the region was dominated by cold tolerant steppe plants
Oaks and other tree species along dit was presumed with the progenitors of
crop species were able to find refugia in protected areas from which they were
able to rapidly expand during the period of warming and greater precipitation
that followed and while there was some contraction in these plants communities
in the Younger Dryas the early Holocene once again saw their rapid expansion
across the LaVon in contrast the Zagros which is
dominated by harsher continental climatic conditions seemed to lag far
behind these developments with cold-adapted steppe plants surviving
well into the Younger Dryas moreover there was a marked delay in the
expansion of oak woodlands in the Zagros only reaching modern levels about four
to six thousand years after they had done so in the Levant so by the early
1990s it seemed that the Levant with its retention and then rapid expansion of
all these biotic communities containing these progenitors of crop plants was a
much more likely context for initial domestication than was the eastern
Fertile Crescent where ice age conditions seemed to be much more severe
and to linger longer the settlement history in the Levant closely tracks
this paleo environmental record even during the height of the last ice age
small groups of foragers that ranged over broad
territories congregated in favored locations sometimes for long periods of
time where they exploited a broad spectrum of game animals and plant
resources including wild cereals during the following period of post-glacial not
warming Levantine foragers concentrated more on regions with increasingly more
plentiful trees and plant resources which they processed with ground stone
mortars and other tools like this one here this peak of the warming period saw
the establishment of a large number of sedentary communities in resource-rich
areas where people living in small round structures continued to exploit this
broad array of plant and animal species the Younger Dryas climatic downturn was
met by an increased amount of mobility in the southern Levant while others
hunkered down in favorable areas in the northern Levant and adjusted their
subsistence practices accordingly including it was argued bringing rye and
einkorn into domestication the climatic amelioration of the early Holocene saw a
virtual explosion of semi to fully sedentary communities comprised once
again of the small round houses supported by a broad-spectrum economy
with a very heavy emphasis on the processing and storage of wild cereals
and legumes a few of these sites contain some cereal grains that displayed this
distinctive non shattering seed head characteristic of domesticus this
so-called pre pottery kneel at the a or PP n a period was followed by the ppm B
which saw the establishment of villages comprised of increasingly elaborate
rectangular houses that by the end of the period had become or it had included
mega villages that were increasingly reliant on a wide range of crop plants
and from about ten thousand five hundred years on first goats and followed late
by domestic sheep and then much later by domestic cattle and pigs so by the mid
1990s the consensus view was at the discovery of some domestic cereal grains
in Younger Dryas and P PNA deposits placed initial domestication in the
Levant at about 12,000 – 11,500 as a result a number of
researchers awarded the Younger Dryas a catalytic role in initial domestication
with environmentally caused resource suppression forcing people to begin to
experiment with ways of enhancing diminishing resources leading to their
domestication sort of taking a page from child’s book however in the early 2000s
close scrutiny of the stratigraphic context of these domestic cereals and
their dates along with advances in small volume radiocarbon dating showed that
most of the proposed domestic cereals were either from intrusive levels above
the levels that they had ended up in or from insecure context while the domestic
statuses of others others of these could be questioned on other grounds the
earliest bona fide domestic cereals were then from ppm early PP n B sites they
were immer and I corn from sites in the upper Euphrates valley dated to about
10,500 years ago with barley following on about 500 years later
this meant that cereal domestication occurred during a period of increasing
resource abundance more than a thousand years after the Younger Dryas early
Holocene transition however Mary Steiner a student of Louis Benford was able to
propose another resource Depression base scenario that was able to accommodate
domestication happening during a period of expanding opportunity a theory that
not surprisingly closely followed Binford’s original theory according to
this theory climatic amelioration and increasing resource abundance was argued
to spur on a rapid increase with population quote growth people breeding
like bunnies leading to population packing a loss of mobility nowhere to go
too many people and decrease in availability in high return species all
of which forced people to turn to less productive plant and animal resources
such as things like cereals and medium-sized herbivores which under can
patience of continued population growth and resource Pritchard voila
they eventually domesticated either way the prevailing wisdom in 2000’s was that
the Levantine corridor was the center of agricultural emergence a center from
which both plants domesticated in the Levant and the know-how needed to bring
other plants and as importantly animals under domestication dispersed throughout
the rest of the Near East and beyond around this time a team of Israeli
archaeologists argued for redrawing the boundaries of this core region to a much
more limited area in the upper reaches of the tigris-euphrates vat rivers they
base this argument on the fact that this is the only part of the Fertile Crescent
that today includes the wild progenitors of all seven Neolithic founder crops
shown here especially chickpea the one on the bottom which has the most
limited distribution of all of them moreover newly available genetic
information suggested that both Emmer and einkorn wheat as well as peas and
lentils the two legumes were only domesticated one time from founder
populations that today can be found on the slopes of the extinct character bulk
a know in the centre of the region rejecting climate change is either a
pole or a push factor in agricultural origins they instead credited this
development to the initiative of individuals living within this
fortuitous set of geographic circumstances who as they put it were
blessed by an amazing scientific and social and practical ingenuity that made
it possible to rapidly bring all these progenitor species into domestication at
one time similarly Jacques Colvin also argued
that domestication rested in the mind of man specifically in a change of mindset
that allowed humans to see themselves as dominating nature rather than simply
being part of it he proposed that this collective cognitive shift occurred
under steadily improving conditions of the early Holocene in an even more
restricted area core area the middle Euphrates valley
where maybe not coincidentally Kovak self worked it’s amazing how the center
of things seems to be wherever you work you know this is sort of a law of
Archaeology anyway he proposed that it occurred here this
sudden promotion of humans to the rank of masters of the natural world found
it’s symbolic expression in a mother goddess figure emblematic of female
fertility whose rise to prominence in the later phases of the PPA inspired the
initial domestication of cereals and other crop plants that quickly spread
down the Levantine corridor in the following ppm B period a male figure
arose of a bull figure that was emblematic of male virility which then
propelled people to assume mastery I’m not kidding this is true of mastery over
animals this more masculine mindset was also credited with the transition in
acne in architecture from the more round softer more feminine oval shapes of
buildings to the more masculine rectilinear PPN be rectangular houses
very levy Strauss Ian it also fostered actually it was it also fostered an
expansionist mindset that drove this mother goddess bull centered symbolic
system and the agro pastoral economy that supported it through all parts of
the Fertile Crescent and beyond salvage excavations in the Tigris drainage area
in the 1990s helped shift this intense focus on the Levantine corridor as the
center of all things and started to bring at least a part of the eastern
Fertile Crescent out of the shadows a number of sites were excavated here that
were contemporary with eleventeen PPN a settlements ranging from Holland Jimmy
and Amir koi in the upper Tigris Valley dating from about eleven seven to eleven
five B P to somewhat later sites located down the Tigris including Mel watt that
had been originally tested by brave woods team nemr at 9:00 and then farther
out onto the Jazeera Gare mez dare all of these sites had a similar layouts
consisting of small round houses and central courtyards in an inventory of
ground and chip stone to that closely resembled the excavated and
as it turns out contemporary settlements of Izawa chemi in cream sheer in Iraq
Accio bin Iran and the initial phases of occupation at China in southeastern
Turkey terminal levels at both nemr ik and gammas dare capture this transition
from the round to the more rectangular houses that around 10,000 800 based on
an exhaustive analysis of material culture attributes from across the
entire Fertile Crescent region in the early 2000 Stephane Kozlowski who
excavated a number of these tiger strange sites and Olivia Yosh argued for
two super regional culture groups that were separating the eastern and the
western Fertile Crescent and that these could be traced back to the Upper
Paleolithic and continued up to the pottery neolithic and beyond
within these broadly defined culture regions a indentify the number of sub
regions which they argued function is independent though interacting culture
groups but they singled out a constellation of these groups in the
central Fertile Crescent that formed what they called a golden triangle a hub
of innovation where initial domestication of both plants and animals
took place where the transition from round to rectangular houses first
happened and where they thought ceramics were first invented it was their Ground
Zero of the Neolithic Revolution and it was from this Golden Triangle of
cultural dynamism that these traditions expanded first to a somewhat larger
region that stretched westward to coastal Lebanon and eastward into Iraqi
Kurdistan and then from there outward however owing to its very rugged and
mountainous terrain they proposed that the Iranians are gross remained
relatively isolated from this rest of this rapidly changing Neolithic world
only receiving these innovations quite late and quite reluctantly much later
than the rest of the region so while the shadow that fell across the east in the
1990s was partially lifted by the work of the 93 the shadow fell in the 70s it
was partially lifted by the work of the 90s and the 2000s the Iranians are still
very much in the dark portrayed as an isolated backwater area slow to receive
and indeed even resistant to the modernizing innovations of the Neolithic
Revolution my own research on agricultural origins began in 1995 when
I set out to develop more effective ways of monitoring the transition from wild
to domestic in animals especially in sheep and goats at the time
the demographic profiles that had been so widely used in the 60s and 70s had
fallen out of fashion replaced by a proposed decrease in body size but at
the time that was thought to be an almost instantaneous artifact of human
management my work centered on the analysis of a large collection of modern
and wild domestic sheep and goats from Iran and Iraq right here in Chicago at
the Field Museum I have my Field Museum contingent here in the audience tonight
some of which had been collected by Reed as part of the Braidwood expeditions it
also involved the study of all of the available assemblages of sheep and goat
remains collected during the 50s to the 70s from the eastern Fertile Crescent
that I could lay my hands on this included assemblages from brave woods
excavations that are also curated right next door to you all at the field as
well as assemblages from the region that I at the time curated at the Smithsonian
what I found from this work was that sex got everybody’s attention they’re not
domestication is the primary factor affecting body size and sheep and goat
so that the large bones that had been identified as belonging to wild animals
were actually males while the small bones identified as domesticates were
actually females I also found that what other researchers had interpreted as
domestication induced body size reduction was in fact an artifact of
differences in the demographic composition of assemblages generated by
hunters and herders assemblages that are accumulated as a result of the hunt are
dominated by a large adult males while those resulting from the harvest of from
managed herds are for a variety of reasons dominated by
females this strong sexual dimorphism that I observed in the modern sheep and
goat made it possible to distinguish between males and females and
archaeological assemblages which could then be used to construct sex specific
harvest profiles capable of discriminating between the hunting
strategies that emphasize the greatest return from the hunt is getting more
buck for your bang to use a bad pun now as opposed to hurting strategies that
emphasize offtake they wanted stuff from these herds but they wanted to promote
the perpetuation of the herd at the same time when I applied theirs herders when
I applied these new methods to assemblages from Iran Iraq I found
harvest profiles consistent with hunting with an emphasis of prime adult male
animals seeing in the blue line don’t worry about it but it just shows you
there’s some data behind this I’m just not making this up I could be but I’m
not anyway males usually older than about
four years of age not and I found this not only at ASEAN but at shanidar and
other Upper Paleolithic sites I also found however clear signatures of
hurting with the harvest of most of the males by the age of two and then the
delayed harvest of females until they passed peak reproductive years and I
found this at gangster a and well as jarm Ogura and Saurabh and Ali Kosh I
was also able to settle once and for all the debate between Braidwood and
Flannery as to whether the goats were first domesticated in their heart in the
heartland of wild goat country where both jerem oh and a gun-store heir
located or whether if they were domesticated in the marginal territories
outside this natural habitat where ollie Kosh is located applying small volume
AMS dating to college and extracted from these goat bones I found that all levels
at gongs Dre dated to about 10,000 BP while the basal the lowest levels at
Ollie coast were much more recent at about 95 hundred years ago there was
then evidence that goat domestication happened in their natural habitat among
animals that were otherwise indistinguishable from wild goats and
the size of their body in the shape of their horns and that subsequently
managed goats were moved out of this natural habitat
to erin lola and iran where they began to exhibit the carry characteristic
changes in horn form and eventually body size reduction seen in modern
domesticates and since management of these goats was very well established by
even the earliest levels that gangster a i reason that initial domestication of
these animals was probably considerably earlier this meant that the
morphological changes that we had been using is leading edged markers of
initial domestication the real beginning of this process were actually happening
quite late in the process and only after these animals were moved out of the area
where they were initially brought under human control now about the same time
archaea botanists working in the northern Levant were devising new ways
of tracking a similarly long process of human manipulation of wild plants that
preceded the appearance of archaeologically visible traits such as
the non shattering rekha sand cereals as you’d seen was being used at the time as
a leading edge marker of cereal domestication they were doing things
like looking for characteristic signatures of weed species that are only
found in cultivated fields or finding the wild progenitors of future
domesticates in areas where they would need human assistance to thrive or
finding increases in these progenitor species through time they were looking
for increases in the size of seeds that was thought to reflect artificial
watering they were looking for evidence of cereal storage finding silos or even
things like the remains of house mouse or mouse poop insights actually the
technical term is droppings for them new genetic information was also emerging
that challenged the earlier consensus view that domestication of things like
Emmer and einkorn and various legumes always only happened once in one spot in
the northern Levant instead it seemed that there were a
number of separate geographically distributed domestication events for
these crops including evidence that both Emmer and barley were domesticated in
the eastern and the Western Fertile Crescent
so by 2000 it apparent that this scope of
investigations had to change temporally we had to look back in time to the time
before the appearance of morphological markers of domestication geographically
we needed broad it in our search for that for a single Center in a single
place – looking for multiple centers across the entire region and
methodologically we needed to broaden our and expand our toolkit to include
not only these morphological markers which is we see or late in the process
but to include the whole range of new methods designed to detect the long
DeRay of the evolving relationship between humans and target species that
led to domestication as a result the focus of investigations now zeroed in on
the time period between 12,000 and 10,000 years ago which is we’ve seen as
this period of climatic amelioration and stabilization that is accompanied with
this proliferation of these small Roundhouse communities across the entire
Fertile Crescent both in the West and in the East so finally it was time for the
eastern Fertile Crescent and especially the Iranians ogress to come out of the
shadows as a co-equal region in the search for agricultural origins now one
of the primary factors that have been keeping the Zagros in the dark was the
delay in the spread of oak woodlands into the region and it was presumed then
as the accompanying progenitors of plant species at the end of the Pleistocene
this was interpreted to mean that the interior of Southwest Asia remained cold
and dry long after the Levant making it an unlikely center for initial
domestication an ever widening array of Paleo environmental data however is
totally revised our understanding of the Paleo climatic context of initial
domestication in this region based on chemical signatures of various
geological deposits we now know that the East experienced a dramatic shift in
climate as quickly and as early as in the Mediterranean littoral Pollan
records indicate especially rapid recovery of grassland species while both
pollen and wood charcoal records point to a simultaneous
increase in parkland trees and shrubs things like pistachios and almonds
hackberries juniper the delay in the oak woodlands which is still seen in the
record has been attributed at least in part to an increase in wildfires
indicated by an increase in charcoal and pollen cores due to higher temperatures
and increased biomass of fuel but also it’s believed to the human use of fire
to create more open grasslands for hunting and collecting wild cereals and
other grassland species so not the hellscape of earlier paleo environmental
reconstructions but really a highly bio diverse region very well suited to early
experiments with the management of free living plants and animals recent
excavations in this region have brought to light a number of new sites that fit
into this new target time window for initial domestication in southeastern
Turkey we have a number of new roundhouse communities that have been
excavated that show architectural and material culture ties to other
roundhouse communities down the Tigris and elsewhere in the East some like the
site of Coretech Teppei have levels that reach back into the Younger Dryas at
about 12,000 years ago others have uppermost levels like at
Hasankeyf where houses are beginning to show this more rectangular shape that
had been also seen at terminal levels at Nomura Kundera mez dare to the south but
what’s really remarkable about this recent work has been the explosion of
recent excavations of Neolithic sites in Iran especially those led by Iranian
archeologists some of them situated here at the O I working in the whole region
from the Zagros to Iranian Plateau to eastern Iran a special significance to
our discussion tonight however is the work in the central Zagros excavations
at the site of Chowk ago lon have encountered eight meters of
deposits with 11 different occupation levels dating to the final phases of the
Younger Dryas up to about ninety eight hundred years ago at Highland Sheikh
Abad an Iranian British team also encountered basal levels dating to the
Younger Dryas early Holocene transition followed after a hiatus of about 2,000
years by a fully developed village site with well-built
our houses this same teams excavations at the site of Yanni and Iranian ho jet
drivers work at Chia sobs captured the transition from lower levels comprised
of ashley-pitt sand fire installations to upper levels of substantial
architecture in 2016 Diaby returned to asean the small site that had been
originally tested by braid woods team in 1960 here he was able to locate and
completely excavate the ephemeral round structure that they first encountered
finding it to be really very large ten meters in diameter with benches and
plaster and painted floors that are very similar to other communal houses found
in other other ground house communities these new excavations made the recovery
of plant remains from the sites a special focus which has succeeded in
completely revising our understanding a plant exploitation in the East sites in
the central Zagros all have a very similar signature with Cho Gogol on
providing a particularly detailed overview of 2000 years of plant-based
subsistence from earliest levels at the site the residents of the residents of
toka Galan exploited a great diversity of wild grass species among them wild
barley seems to have been particularly important for about a thousand years
without importantly develop ever developing the non shattering seed head
that is still widely accepted as a marker of full domestication increases
in the size of barley grains over time however along with isotopic signatures
indicative of enhanced growing conditions are thought to reflect some
degree of management over the cereal upper levels of the site see an uptick
in the quantity of Emmer a hitherto very minor component of the assemblage a high
proportion of which do belong to this non shattering domestic variety
excavators of this site interpret this as evidence of independent domestication
of em are in the Zagros although it’s also possible this crop plant was
introduced it’s quite a late date and was found earlier in the West
morphologically domesticated cereals and legumes appear at other recently
excavated sites in the central Zagros about the same time about 9800 to 10,000
years ago but at all of these sites these domesticates remain really minor
components the assemblages basically folded into
long existing strategies for exploiting local plant resources that heavily
emphasize wild cereals this enduring exploitation of this complex of glass
grasses points to a very effective and highly sustainable subsistence strategy
that almost certainly involved active human engagement in maintaining and even
expanding the environments in which these plants thrived in contrast cereals
and other grasses played almost no role in the plant-based subsistence in the
upper Tigris drainage instead residents of these sites focused on locally
available plant resources including this Club rush which is a wetland species
that has an edible and very nutritious tuber as well as not grass a highly
plastic plant that responds well to human manipulation but even at sites
farther out into the Jazira where grass utilization is greater all of these
sites have the signature of a heavy utilization of legumes in fact dramatic
increase in the number of large seeded legumes in the later levels at Holland
to me is probably an indication of their cultivation if not they’re downright
domestication and even though domestic cereals appear in later levels at China
as you can see legumes predominate in all levels so it can no longer be argued
that the East lacked the progenitors of crop plants these new assemblages
clearly show that a diversity of grass species including cereals and legumes
were present and utilized from the Younger Dryas on and based on both
genetic and archaeological data a case can be made for local domestication of
barley various legumes and possibly Emmer but the people of this region
seemed to have marched to a different drummer than in the west where the
reliance and cereals was always much more prominent in the east people
focused on this broad spectrum of locally available plant resources
developing successful strategies for exploiting them that involves some level
of management it was a very stable and a highly resilient strategy that supported
an increasing number of sedentary communities for a thousand years without
the embrace and until the embrace of fully domesticated
crop plants now unfortunately animal bone assemblages from these new
excavations are either still being analyzed or too small to provide much
insight into animal domestication nonetheless we’re still getting a sort
of general idea the outlines of this process new genetic analyses of
archaeological goat specimens from the Zagros confirmed the central Zagros as a
center of initial goat domestication there’s also evidence of an independent
domestication of another goat lineage in the southern Levant my analysis of the
zowie kenny follower memes confirms perkins original conclusion that there
was an emphasis on younger sheep it’s a pattern that’s quite different
from that expected with this emphasis prime adult males as a hunting strategy
seen in these other two curves his pattern is not however consistent with a
gangster a goat harvest profile with this emphasis on males under two years
of age and a delayed harvest of females it’s a which is a definitive marker I
would say of herd management instead this Howie Kimi residence seemed to
focus on the harvesting of male sheep between the ages of about 2 to 3 years
of age sort of teenage sheep if you will and they utilized very few females now
this pattern has been interpreted as a kind of an intermediate strategy where
the hunting has reduced the number of these prime target males these older
males in a region with the Amaze remaining females serving as a kind of a
bait that draw in younger males from adjoining territories wild and crazy
guys who have yet to establish their own breeding hierarchies creating a steady
supply of target animals and setting the precedent for hands-on management sheep
from contemporary sites in southeastern Turkey show a similar harvest profile
suggesting that this is the region of initial sheep domestication something
supported by genetic evidence my analysis of the fauna remains from
Holland chimi has lent some support to an earlier study that argued for some
form of early pig management at the site during earlier phases of occupation a
wild boar harvest focused on females and their young especially newborn piglets
they were probably taken during the very brief window
time in the year when wild females leave a larger herd and create nests where
they give birth sort of an unsportsmanlike hunting strategy by the
final occupation of the site the strategy has morphed into the culling of
young pigs in their first year of life born to females that we believe were
kept locally and allowed to breed with free ranging males Choi who picks up
where Colin tummy leaves off with harvest profiles and progressive levels
looking more and more like actual management and signs of morphological
domestication appearing in later levels evidence of cattle management is also
seen at China at about ten thousand three hundred years ago though there’s a
reason to believe that initial domestication of the species took place
to the west in the upper Euphrates valley so it seems that all four major
livestock species were brought under domestication in the region going from
the central to the eastern Fertile Crescent and that this process was
taking place at the same time as people were experimenting with indigenous plant
species in ways that was some of them resulted in domestication so when we
look at it across the reason domestication of plants and animals in
the Fertile Crescent was a geographically dispersed process with
people at different parts of the region practicing similar strategies that led
to the domestication of different plants and animals in different parts of the
region and clearly the eastern Fertile Crescent was a full participant in this
process now there’s also some new insight into
the social and ideological developments that accompanied this increasing
engagement in resource management the settlements established across the
region as we’ve seen at the dawn of the Holocene followed the same basic plan
with a handful of small essentially featureless little houses round
structures opening on a central courtyard where a range of communal
activities were conducted and it’s easy to envision these as egalitarian
communities where the procurement preparation and consumption of food and
other daily chores were largely shared activities these communal areas also
served as a location of ritual activities evidence of feasting for
example is seen at Holland to me and the very high proportion of meaty cuts from
large games that are disproportionately found in the courtyards as opposed to
the residential areas elaborately carved stone balls and
animal topped pistols also may have been used in these
feasting activities skulls of large game are perfectly laid out in courtyard
areas suggesting a powerful symbolic role for these animals birds also
carried a special meaning as evidenced by the wing bones and talons of things
like large cranes geese and especially large Raptors that are found in
courtyards a newly discovered pit containing the skulls bless you of
nineteen bore were set into the floor of the communal house at Ostia these also
likely carried symbolic meaning these larger communal houses like the one at
Ostia become increasingly common through time and while the ramping up of the
number and the elaborateness of grave Goods at kortek Tepe may point to some
social merchant social inequalities the overall picture that we get are one of
an egalitarian society trying to cope with the tensions that arise when larger
and larger groups of people stay together for larger periods of time
begin bickering with each other and especially when they become increasingly
reliant on resources that require collective input and may produce uneven
returns these activities seem to ramp up through time culminating in the
construction of gobekli tepe this amazing ritual center that may have
served as some kind of a pilgrimage site now the location of Gobekli at the
junction of the eastern and the Western culture areas suggests that the center
droolin pilgrims from both of these distinct but largely parallel cultural
groups these mechanisms however would ultimately prove insufficient as
suggested by the change in community layout that follows in both the east and
the West beginning around 10,000 800 years ago which is seen in the
increasing compartmentalization of activities within houses the replacement
of communal storage areas outside houses where everybody has access to it to
those hidden deeply within the house and the shift to rectangular houses that
lend themselves to multiple additions that could accommodate expanding
households all of this points to a restructuring of society from that
original solitary and ethos toward one of
competition between households and household groups for access to basic
resources that and exotic items obtained through trade all of which brings us
back to Braidwood I guess you were wondering when I get
back to him well it now is his time and of an evaluation of how well this model
of agricultural origin holds up in light of all this new evidence accumulated
since 1960 now you’ll remember this model rested on four conclusions based
on paleo environmental data available to him in 1960 Braidwood
concluded that climate played no role in agricultural origins and while he later
acknowledged the growing data pointing to these dramatic swings and climate at
the end of the places scene he nevertheless maintained that other
factors were more important in agricultural origins we now as we’ve
seen have a much more nuanced understanding of the nature of climate
change across this entire region from the late glacial maximum and into the
Holocene and based on this new information I think we can safely once
and for all rule out depression caused by climatic deterioration as a forcing
factor in agricultural origin since initial steps towards domestication are
taken well after the Younger Dryas are at least shortly after the Younger Dryas
but during a period of rapidly improving and stabilizing climate moreover given
the apparently low population levels in the east where we’ve seen a number of
animals and plants were domesticated I also think we can rule out
demographically induced resource depression as a forcing factor in
agricultural origins this doesn’t mean however that climatic amelioration and
the resulting rebound of resources can be credited with pulling people into
agriculture instead much like Braidwood I think that climate change simply made
it possible for people to focus on these more circumscribed areas where they
could utilize this diverse array of predictably abundant resources to
support increasingly sedentary communities and it’s under these
conditions that Braidwood second conclusion seems especially oppression
that agricultural origins took place in the natural habitat are the progenitors
of domesticates where people could down and settle into a variety of
environments gaining and accumulating knowledge of the range of resources
available to them this talent for what is today termed behind is his term niche construction
was not newly discovered in the early Holocene indeed it seems to be a basic
part of the human toolkit from the origin of modern humans if not earlier
and there’s ample evidence that mobile foragers in the region practiced
resource enhancing techniques environmental conditions of the early
Holocene made it possible for people to focus these capacities more on these
circumscribed areas for longer periods of time and then to develop increasingly
effective ways to encourage the resources of interest and then to pass
these practices on to future generations who became more and more invested in
maintaining the ecological inheritance that had been bequeathed to them all of
which led to increasingly close call evolutionary interdependencies between
humans and these target species leading to domestication so-called settling in
or use a more modern term niche construction braid with second
conclusion about domestication occurring through this process of increasing
familiarity with progenitor species seems to have been very much on the mark
Braidwood took the most heat for his third conclusion that domestication
arose once people had sufficient technological sophistication to exploit
favorable environments domestication happened happened earlier because as he
put it culture wasn’t ready to to receive it but here too when you cast
this in more modern terminology this conclusion seems to been pretty much on
the mark we have now been able to trace the development of various food
procurement and processing technologies that provides a witness to this
increasing sophistication and resource management that happens over this period
of time we’ve also as we’ve seen been able to trace evidence of the evolving
social and ritual mechanisms that both transmit ecological know-how and equally
important promoted the cohesion within the community supported by the managed
resources that there’s no high made possible this increasing intensity
of the cohesion promoting activities that we see over time may have served as
an additional impetus to have people engage in even more niche construction
to provide the resources needed for these social performances now this isn’t
to give ritual and symbols a primary role in agricultural origins of some
have done but rather to recognize that subsistence activities serve a larger
purpose and simply meeting basic caloric needs and that the goal of preserving
community also likely played a role in the increasing sophistication of
resource management that led to domestication indeed in light of new
evidence I don’t we can no longer credit any one of these single factors with
either pulling or pushing people into agriculture instead all of these
different factors that were once held as so-called prime movers in this process
climate change demographic change social tensions ritual behaviors all of these
work together to propel this process braid was fourth and final conclusion
was that domestication of crops and livestock diffused from the nuclear zone
of initial domestication to other environmentally suitable areas and while
in 1960 braid would maintain that the Zagros was this primary nuclear zone for
subsequent diffusion he also recognized that other parts of the region could
serve this function and we now as we’ve seen have a large amount of genetic
archaeological and archaea biological evidence that points to multiple centers
of initial domestication across this entire region across the entire art of
braid woods nuclear zone and their subsequent diffusion outward in all
directions the eastern Fertile Crescent seems to be a primary point of departure
for crops livestock and people across the Iranian plateau to South and Central
Asia and up to the caucuses and beyond the northern Levant was a jumping off
point for crops and livestock first to Cyprus at about 10,500 years ago and
then about 1,500 years later in two different dispersal routes whoops get
back to Africa in a second two different dispersal routes one around the
Mediterranean Basin probably by boats and another overland up to Danu corridor
into Europe while the southern Levant seems to be the jumping-off point
for crops and livestock and people into northern Africa but perhaps grade would
small significant and important contribution is this model of
interdisciplinary research that he embarked upon from the outset of his
work Braidwood felt as we said that the only way to understand this key
development was to bring together multiple branches of the Natural
Sciences to evaluate overarching models to explain how when where and why of
agricultural origins over the past 70 years bread woods vision for what’s now
called transdisciplinary research has been a major force in propelling the
remarkable advances in the archaeological sciences that have been
very much on display here tonight genetics isotopes radio chemistry
archaeal biology geomorphology and on and on and on what we’ve seen over these
last seven decades has been an amazing advancement in the ability of these
various fields to come together to address fundamental questions and of all
the things that it seems that Braidwood got right and as you can see there were
a lot of them it is this integration of the physical and the biological sciences
with the social sciences and the humanities that I believe is his most
enduring legacy and one that will continue to direct future research on
this amazing transformational period of human history thank you


  • Reply Frank Malone June 9, 2019 at 3:20 pm

    When it comes to early domestication of plants and animals, no one ever asks the question that us lazy folks would put forward – why should I go to all this extra trouble.

  • Reply RonJohn63 June 9, 2019 at 7:51 pm

    Lecture starts at 8:37.
    9:37 Obviously she's from The South.

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