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«Abstract Sedentism is usually regarded as a pre-condition for the development of crop husbandry in Southwest Asia and, consequently, sedentary ...»

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Where grasses were indeed an important part of hunter-gatherer subsistence strategies, they may have been neither the main nor the only staple food: for example, in the Qermez Dere and M’lefaat assemblages, legumes also played an important role throughout the occupation of the site. Published results at comparison sites have also shown that other food-plants, such as legumes, were often at least as important as grasses in terms of proportions. Finally, Mureybit illustrates that, when grasses are dominant within the overall assemblage of a site, they are not necessarily dominant in all sub-phases, especially those associated with the initial occupation.

At Hallan Cemi, where there is bioarchaeological evidence for year-round occupation, ¸ sedentism was possible without the exploitation of grasses as an important subsistence strategy. At M’lefaat, where there is also strong bioarchaeological evidence for year-round occupation, other food plants are as important as grasses in terms of proportions and ubiquity.

Sedentism and dietary diversity The model by which hunter-gatherers became sedentary by exploiting a small number of staple foods, typically thought to include grasses (particularly the wild progenitors of cereals) and nuts, was based on data from a small number of Levantine sites. New data suggest that this model may not be applicable throughout Southwest Asia or, indeed, in the Levant itself. Furthermore, the archaeobotanical remains from Ohalo II show some continuity in food-plant gathering between 19,500 BP and 10,000 BP (uncal.), suggesting that there might have been little difference between the diet of hunter-gatherers thought to be mobile in 19,500 BP and sedentary in 10,000 BP. Even in the Levant, the exploitation of 192 Manon Savard et al.

grasses might not have triggered nor have been an important factor for sedentism, as argued earlier by Olszewski (1993). As suggested by Peter Rowley-Conwy (2001: 58–65), the first domesticates in this and other agricultural societies would not have been the staple foods of pre-agrarian societies.

The progressivist perspective usually applied to sedentary hunter-gatherer sites, and the quest for the earliest evidence for agriculture, translate into a quest for ‘wild cereals’.

Instead, the archaeobotanical assemblages of Hallan Cemi, Demirkoy, Qermez Dere and ¸ ¨ M’lefaat and those of broadly contemporary sites fit with elements of Flannery’s (1969) broad spectrum model. Subsistence strategies seem to have been as diverse as the local environments. Although the exact causes of the variability in plant diet between different sites remain to be established, it appears that hunter-gatherers were taking an opportunistic advantage of the resources available. Sedentism was possible in areas offering a wide diversity of resources, both locally and seasonally. The presence of reliable resources (such as valley-bottom plants) probably had more importance for sedentism than ‘wild cereals’.


The authors would like to thank an anonymous reviewer for insightful comments, and are grateful for research and/or technical support from M. Rosenberg, B. Peasnall, T.

Watkins, D. Baird, S. K. Kozłowski, P. Miracle, G. Willcox, S. Colledge, D. Fuller, S. Gagnon and the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research. Funding is acknowledged from the Gerald Averay Wainwright Near Eastern Archaeological Fund, the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust, the Association of Commonwealth Universities, the British Council, the Canadian Centennial Scholarship Fund, St. Edmund’s College (Cambridge), the NERC and the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit.

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Horizon. The diversity in chrono-cultural labels is not linked with a lack of consistency, but rather reflects the difficulty of classifying these sites within strict categories.

2 There are over fifty species of dock/knotgrass documented in Turkey and their seed edibility varies between species.


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