Archaeological case studies

Tell Brak

Tell Brak
The site occupies an area that, in prehistory, has widely been regarded as dependent on dry-farming, and there is no evidence of ancient irrigation, in the immediate vicinity. On the other hand, the catchment of Tell Brak is today subject to acute inter-annual variability in rainfall with a high crop failure rate. As an ‘urban’ site of 40-60 ha, with a population of several thousand, Tell Brak will have required large-scale and reliable grain production. The extent to which the site was reliant on irrigated cultivation is thus of critical importance.

Assiros Toumba

Assiros Toumba
The grain storage complex at the site superficially resembles the larger magazines of the southern Greek ‘palaces’, known from archival sources to have been supported by extensive cereal agriculture. Assiros is a very small site, however, without clear evidence for marked social stratification, and the diversity of crops stored, which contrasts sharply with that recorded for the palaces, has been tentatively interpreted as evidence for intensive ‘horticulture’ on a household scale. Thus identification of the scale and intensity of crop husbandry at Assiros is central to understanding both land use and surplus production.


Specialist collaborators
Dr. Amy Bogaard
Dr Otto Brinkkemper
Dr Sue Colledge
Dr Stefanie Jacomet and Dr Christoph Brombacher
Dr Angela Kreuz
Dr Helmut Kroll
Dr Joy McCorriston
Dr Mark Nesbitt
Dr Simone Riehl
Dr Tania Valamoti


Grime, J.P., Thompson, K., Hunt, R., Hodgson, J.G. et al. 1997. Integrated screening validates primary axes of specialisation in plants. Oikos 79: 259-281.

Hodgson, J.G., Wilson, P., Hunt , R., Grime, J. and Thompson, K. 1999. Allocating C-S-R plant functional types: a soft approach to a hard problem. Oikos 85: 282-296.

Weiher, E., van der Werf, A., Thompson, K., Roderick, M., Garnier, E. and Eriksson, O. 1999. Challenging Theophrastus: A common core list of plant traits for functional ecology. Journal of Vegetation Science 10: 609-620.

Fieldwork support provided by:

Grup de Recerca Cientifica ‘Terres de l’ebre’ (grcte), Tortosa, SPAIN
Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, JORDAN
The Shannag family, Sawm es-Shannag, JORDAN