Agricultural Sustainability and Environmental Change at Ancient Gordion

Agricultural Sustainability and Environmental Change at Ancient Gordion

Agricultural Sustainability and Environmental Change at Ancient Gordion

Agricultural Sustainability and Environmental Change at Ancient Gordion


This book publishes the results of 220 botanical samples from the 1993-2002 Gordion excavations directed by Mary Voigt. Together with Naomi Miller's 2010 volume (Gordion Special Studies 5), this book completes the publication of botanical samples from Voigt's excavations. The book aims to reconstruct agricultural decision making using archaeological and paleoenvironmental data from Gordion to describe environmental and agricultural changes at the site.

John M. Marston argues that different political and economic systems implemented over time at Gordion resulted in patterns of agricultural decision making that were well adapted to the social setting of farmers in each period, but that these practices had divergent environmental impacts, with some regimes sponsoring sustainable agricultural practices and others leading to significant environmental change. The implications of this book are twofold: Gordion will now be one of the best published agricultural datasets from the entire Near East and, thus, serve as a valuable comparable dataset for regional synthesis of agricultural and environmental change, and the methods the author developed to reconstruct agricultural change at Gordion serves as tools to engage questions about the relationship between social and environmental change at sites worldwide. Other books address similar themes but none in the Near East address these themes in diachronic perspective such as we have at Gordion.

University Museum Monograph, 145

John M. Marston teaches archaeology and anthropology at Boston University. An environmental archaeologist, he studies the long-term sustainability of agriculture and land use, especially in the Mediterranean and western Asia.


This book has two aims: to develop an approach for the reconstruction of agricultural decision making using archaeological data, and to illustrate the value of that approach by synthesizing the results of 25 years of botanical research at Gordion to describe environmental and agricultural changes at that famous site. My central contention is that archaeological data permit not just the identification of agricultural practices but also the decision-making processes behind them, which, in turn, enables a deep understanding of how farmers and herders respond to environmental, social, and economic pressures. By understanding these relationships, we can better explore how unsustainable agricultural and land-use practices arise and how those practices affect productive landscapes and local ecologies over decades to millennia. I center this work at the site of Gordion due to its rich diachronic archaeological and paleoenvironmental records that allow a robust and multifaceted exploration of agricultural and environmental change at the site over a span of nearly 3,000 years.

The multidisciplinary argument presented here draws on various methods in environmental archaeology, though primarily paleoethnobotany and ecology. I draw on both ecological resilience thinking and behavioral theory to build a model for considering agricultural sustainability and decision making within its environmental and social contexts. As such, this volume speaks to multiple audiences: scholars of agriculture and human-environmental relationships, paleoethnobotanists, archaeologists, and ecologists. in addition, this volume and its attendant online data files provide the full, sample-by-sample results of botanical material excavated at Gordion over ten years. These data are now available for comparative research in Anatolia and the broader Near East.

Together with Naomi F. Miller’s 2010 volume, this book presents the final results of flotation sample and hand-collected wood charcoal analysis for the 1988–2005 excavation campaign under Mary M. Voigt as Director of Excavations at Gordion. As excavations under C. Brian Rose have now been ongoing since 2013, this volume represents one part of the combined efforts to complete the publication of prior Gordion excavation campaigns and so should be read in conversation with other titles in the Gordion series appearing before and after, including publications to come from the new campaign of excavations.

This book also completes a personal journey for me. Although I joined the Gordion excavation only in 2002, the final year of full-scale excavation under Voigt’s direction, I was offered the opportunity to undertake the analysis of botanical samples from 1993–2002 for my dissertation project. I ultimately completed analysis of this dataset . . .

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