Ubaid Period Agriculture at Kenan Tepe, Southeastern Turkey

Date of Completion

January 2011


Anthropology, Archaeology




The primary goals of this dissertation are: 1) to understand the agricultural system at Kenan Tepe during the Ubaid period including the types of crops grown, the agronomic methods used, and the purposes they served; and 2) to identify activity areas related to agriculture within a well preserved burnt Ubaid house. The Ubaid (8,000-6,000 BP) was a period of incipient social complexity that developed in the flat alluvial plains of southern Mesopotamia and gradually expanded north. Archaeobotanical remains from the site of Kenan Tepe in southeastern Turkey currently provide the best source of information about Ubaid period agriculture. One hundred and fifteen samples spanning four Ubaid occupation phases (6,700-6,400 BP) were recovered using flotation from a variety of contexts, including a burnt house. Although some samples were sterile, the overall botanical preservation is excellent. The remains were sorted using a stereo-zoom microscope and identified using the archaeobotanical reference collection at the University of Connecticut. Data were analyzed with a variety of statistical techniques including ubiquity, proportions, and correspondence analysis. The results were interpreted using archaeobotanical middle range theory and plant ecology. Wheat, emmer in particular, was the primary crop grown for human consumption. Two-row barley was also grown, possibly for human consumption, but dung remains suggest that it was cultivated for animal feed and was mixed with cereal straw and the occasional weed plant. Legumes are well represented: lentil and pea were grown for human consumption and small amounts were fed to livestock definitively indicating that legumes were an important part of the Ubaid diet. Data from the burnt house highlighted a number of activity areas: cereal drying and flax preparation on the roof of the structure, storage of grains and animal dung within the house structure, and late stage cereal processing on the roof. The preservation of large numbers of in situ botanical remains makes it possible to better understand the daily life of the house's inhabitants. Consequently, this dissertation illuminates the agricultural system of Ubaid period Kenan Tepe as well as how domestic tasks were organized on the household level. ^