PhD Dissertations: Karine Taché, 2008

Seeds of imperialism:  A core/periphery analysis in the eastern Roman Empire

This dissertation examines the archaeobotanical record within the framework of Word-Systems Theory to test core/periphery relations in the Eastern Mediterranean.  The goals of this research:  determining if the archaeobotanical record supports Caesarea as a core port city in the Byzantine period; identifying the changing role of Caesarea through time; understanding the function of agricultural trade in the local economony and if changes in agricultural practices can be indicated by weed species.  The village of Khirbet Qana and the settlement of Humayma were used as examples of periphery sites that were occupied during the same periods as Caesarea.  Analysis of quantification methods to examine taxon diversity, evidence of trade and intensity of agriculture were used as primary indicators of the socio-economic systems that existed at classical sites.  Results yielded a low number of seeds per sample, limiting the validity of taxon diversity as a measure.  Instead, ubiquity and density were deemed better indicators of the variety of taxa.

The botanical assemblage indicates that Caesarea acted as a core in the Byzantine period, with its large number of exotic or luxury species, its large variety of plant taxa and the evidence of agricultural trade represented by the waterlogged remains recovered from the harbour.  The Islamic period saw a shift from core to semi-periphery as indicated by the smaller quantities of agricultural trade goods recovered and a decline in the variety of taxa recovered.  In the Crusader period it was expected the Casearea would show as a periphery site, however, the botanical remains recovered shared a similar pattern with the Byzantine period, though with slightly less taxonomic variety and density of remains per sample.  This suggests that the Crusader period was representative of a semi-periphery and not a periphery as expected.  Likewise, the site of Humayma was thought to be a periphery but the archaeobotanical assemblage supports a semi-periphery site.  It was determined that more information is required to confirm a periphery status for Khirbet Qana.

This research contributes to the understanding of how the analysis of archaeobotanical remains can be used to expand our knowledge of classical societies.