Dating the origins and long-term process of olive domestication in the north Jordan Valley: new radiometric data from 5th millennium BCE Pella in Jordan

Ms Anne Dighton1, Dr  Stephen Bourke2, Quan Hua3, Geraldine Jacobsen3

1School of Social Science, The University Of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, 2The Pella Project, NEAF, Archaeology, SOPHI, A14, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia, 3Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Lucas Heights, Australia

This paper reports on 20 new 5th millennium calBC dates from the archaeological site of Pella in Jordan. The sampled strata straddle the chronological interface between the Late Neolithic and the Early Chalcolithic periods (around 4600/4500 calBC), a critical period in the development of horticulture in prehistory, where movement from early human-olive interaction to intensified manipulation of the olive occurs.

Although there is ongoing debate concerning the region(s) in which the earliest manipulation of the olive occurred, there is little argument that the foothills of the Jordan Valley are among the earliest. Considerable work in the 1990s exploring one of the earliest centres of olive exploitation at Teleilat Ghassul in the south Jordan Valley made clear that the second half of the 5th millennium BCE was the era of intensive engagement with the olive in the southern Valley flatlands. Pollen analysis suggested an earlier genesis in the northern Valley foothills, where investigations since the 2000’s targeted the first half of the 5th millennium calBC for intensified exploration. After much archaeological material-cultural proxy data, and significant macrobotanical datasets had been accumulated, the final element was direct dating of olive endocarps drawn from across the frontier eras (late 6th through late 5th millennium BCE) of olive manipulation.

This presentation will present the 20 new dates determined using the VEGA AMS Facility at ANSTO, and briefly discuss their significance for the ongoing analysis of the process of olive domestication in the Jordan Valley, underlining the long-term and gradualist process at work. The impact of the move from ad hoc engagement with wild fruit in the 6th millennium calBC, manipulation of select wild trees in the first half of the 5th millennium calBC, and the active propagation of desired traits in cultivated groves, towards the end of the 5th millennium calBC will also be discussed.


Bio to come

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Nov 17 2021


12:00 pm - 12:40 pm