Accurate simulations of how human use and habitation in the Orontes Watershed evolved over time require good information about the environment, including climate, geomorphology, hydrology and vegetation.
Fortunately, significant progress has been made assembling digital records of the topography, hydrology and local ecology of the Orontes Watershed. Archaeological field projects have assembled extensive collections of faunal (animal remains) and paleoethnobotanical (ancient plant) data.
What is lacking, however, are carefully calibrated sediment cores that can provide a detailed environmental profile of the region. By identifying of changes in sedimentation rates and plant pollen species in the cores, we can reconstruct environmental changes in the region over time. Previously collected cores lack chronometric precision or were not subjected to a full analysis.
Graham Philip (Durham University) is leading the effort to collect a series of cores from four specific areas evenly distributed within the Orontes Watershed: Homs Lake, the Ghab, the Amuq Plain, and Zincirli. In addition, Graham has been reaching out to researchers from all over the world who have done similar environmental work in other regions of northwestern Syria to integrate their data. This will create a more holistic model of the ancient environment over time.
This work will provide a representative range of data that will help to show evidence of climate change and local environmental processes,
Core revealing organic-rich gleyed clay from an ancient swampy environment
Core with coarse-grained water laid sands, evidence of an ancient lake.
Environmental stratigraphy reconstructed from coring data.
including landscape change and agricultural development within each individual study area. This can be related to local settlement data, and ultimately our understanding of long-term environmental change (with local variations) for the region as a whole. The sediment cores will also permit detailed palynological (pollen and spore) studies of the local paleoecology of the Orontes Watershed, supervised by Catherine D’Andrea (Simon Fraser University). These studies will shed light on both the short- and long-term effects of agricultural and pastoral subsistence practices, the use of wild versus domesticated resources, as well as deforestation, slope terracing and other land use strategies.
These studies will be complemented by comparative analyses of the macro-faunal and botanical (seeds, charcoals, and phytoliths) data available from each participating archaeological field project. The end result will be local-scale paleoenvironmental profiles fine-tuned with the absolute and relative sequences derived from CRANE’s new chronological framework.