The emergence of perennial fruit cultivation represents a potentially important change in land use in the past, being associated with long-term investments in land and the transformation and commodification of particular crop products. Indeed, it has even been argued to have been closely linked to urbanization and social stratification in parts of Eurasia. Olives (Olea europea) and grapes (Vitis vinifera) were among the first and most popular of the fruit cultivars (Early Chalcolithic) and commodities (by Early Bronze Age), however, the cultivation practices used to manage these crops remain fairly poorly-understood prior to evidence from the historical record. In this study we seek to determine the applicability of stable carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) isotope analysis to perennial plant remains using archaeobotanical remains of olives and grapes from the Early Bronze Age site of Tel Qedesh in Israel. For grapes, we provide the first archaeobotanical δ13C values for this crop, necessitating further study development for more in-depth interpretation. Meanwhile, we plot our olive values against an existing dataset to show that the plants from Tel Qedesh appear to have been efficiently hydrated. Our attempts at δ15N analysis for grape and olive remains did not yield satisfactory results, highlighting the need for future methodological development. We present a comprehensive plan for the development of a methodological framework and interpretative model for perennial plants, based on the models previously applied for the investigation of cereals and pulses. We argue that recognition of the past cultivation methods of perennial plants is crucial for better understanding agricultural changes and their role in key socioeconomic transitions in the past.
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- Isotope analysis
- Perennial plants