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Risks and Resources in an Arid Landscape

An Archaeological Case Study from the Great Sand Sea, Egypt.
  • Heiko Riemer
Chapter
Part of the Studies in Human Ecology and Adaptation book series (STHE, volume 4)

Abstract

Although conventional site archaeology tends to ignore the potential of an analysis of the wider spatial setting, in this contribution landscape archaeology defines an approach which is concerned with the understanding of human behaviour and interaction with resources, topography, and environment of the whole landscape, using a multiperiod systematic approach. Between 1996 and 2000 archaeological excavations and regional surveys were conducted in the southern Great Sand Sea of Egypt by interdisciplinary teams from the ACACIA project of the University of Cologne. A study region, named ‘Regenfeld’, was selected for detailed analysis of the geophysical units, past environmental conditions, and prehistoric settlement patterns. The chronological affiliation of surveyed sites shows temporary activities of prehistoric desert dwellers during the Holocene pluvial. Although the palaeoenvironmental archives clearly indicate a Holocene ‘wet-phase’ during that period, the southern Great Sand Sea was an arid environment with scarce and highly variable key resources, such as surface water.

The holistic approach as proposed in landscape archaeology entailing a comprehensive analysis of a great number of sites and assemblages indicates that the dwellers were highly mobile hunters and gatherers, covering hundreds of kilometres during their episodic rounds through the desert. The settings of sites within the landscape clearly indicate campsite nucleation around sources of open water. These adaptive and flexible subsistence strategies were developed to cope with the unpredictable climate and the risks of resource shortage in an arid landscape. Landscape as an integrative concept becomes a useful tool to analyse the long-term interaction between humans and their environment under changing conditions.

Keywords

Western Desert Sand Sheet Landscape Archaeology Quartzitic Sandstone Arid Landscape 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgements

The research has been carried out within the frame of ACACIA’s subproject A1 ‘Climatic Change and Human Settlement between the Nile Valley and the Central Sahara’ directed by Rudolph Kuper and Helga Besler. I wish to thank the colleagues who participated with their valuable studies, comments, and help, in particular Hubert Berke, Helga Besler, Andreas Bolten, Olaf Bubenzer, Frank Darius, Barbara Eichhorn, Ursula Eisenhauer, Karin Kindermann, Stefan Kröpelin, Rudolph Kuper, Jörg Linstädter, Stefanie Nussbaum, and Nadja Pöllath.

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heiko Riemer
    • 1
  1. 1.African Research CenterUniversity of CologneGermany

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