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23 November 2009
Valley in Jordan irrigated for 13,000 years

Dutch researcher Eva Kaptijn succeeded in discovering - based on 100,000 finds - that the Zerqa Valley in Jordan had been successively inhabited and irrigated for more than 13,000 years. But it was not just communities that built irrigation systems: the irrigation systems also built communities.
     Eva Kaptijn has given up digging in favour of gathering. With her colleagues, she has been applying an intensive field exploration technique: 15 metres apart, the researchers would walk forward for 50 metres. On the outward leg, they'd pick up all the earthenware and, on the way back, all of the other material. This resulted in more than 100,000 finds, varying from about 13,000 years to just a few decades old. Based on further research on the finds and where they were located, Kaptijn succeeded in working out the extent of habitation in the Zerqa Valley in Jordan over the past millennia.
     The area where she undertook her research covers roughly 72 square kilometres. Kaptijn discovered that it had been inhabited, on and off, for thousands of years, but that this habitation was always highly dependent on the irrigation methods used by those who lived there. While the soil in the valley is very rich, there was usually not enough rainfall to cultivate plants without some additional irrigation.
     The irrigation methods exerted a major influence on the people who lived in the valley; power was often dependent on controlling the allocation of water. Kaptijn discovered that the type of irrigation system could result in a community of internally egalitarian tribes, with these tribes being linked to each other in a strict, hierarchical order. At other times, the valley was actually dominated by a large-scale, almost capitalist cultivation of sugar cane.
     Eva Kaptijn's research is part of the multi-disciplinary project Settling the Steppe. The Archaeology of changing societies in Syro-Palestinian drylands during the Bronze and Iron Ages.
     
Source: Physorg.com (18 November 2009)

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