The economic and social pathways from apparently undifferentiated village societies of the later Neolithic, to the socially differentiated, economically diverse walled town cultures of the Early Bronze Age, are hotly debated. Horticulture, transhumant pastoralism, technological advances in metals, husbandry and record keeping, and developments in religion and trade, have all been invoked as drivers of this process. Archaeological investigations, such as those currently being undertaken at Pella in Jordan, endeavour to interrogate and assess the relative impacts of such elements. This talk will consider some of the factors said to be at work in the process, and comment on the timing and impact of multi-factorial, potentially interrelated elements significant in the move from Neolithic villages to Bronze Age townships.

The role of the olive tree and its fruit will be discussed within the context of these processes. Intensive olive cultivation and oil production is generally considered to have really only gained momentum in the Early Bronze Age (from c.3500BCE) in the southern Levant. However new data from Pella suggests that we need to reframe our understanding of olive’s socioeconomic contribution to life at Pella to a much earlier period than previously thought. The data merits consideration of the situation some 2500 years earlier to investigate whether the olive tree was really a driver of “revolutionary” socioeconomic change in this key period of change, as some would suggest.


About the presenter

Stephen Bourke is a Near Eastern archaeologist with 40 years field experience in the Middle East. His main research interests centre on the development of urban civilisation, international trade and foreign relations in the Bronze and Iron Age Levant, and human bioarchaeology. He has directed the University of Sydney excavations at Pella in Jordan since 1992, and led four seasons of renewed excavations at Teleilat Ghassul in Jordan during the 1990s.

Anne Dighton is a PhD Candidate in Archaeology in the School of Social Science at The University of Queensland. Her Doctoral research focusses on the cultivation and exploitation of olive in prehistory, and the resulting environmental and socioeconomic change at the archaeological site of Pella in Jordan. Anne has worked as the Pella archaeobotanist for four years and in addition to working in Jordan for 12 years, has worked in Turkey, Italy and Australia.

About Archaeology Working Papers

The Working Papers in Archaeology seminar series provides a forum for dissemination of archaeological research and ideas amongst UQ archaeology students and staff. All students are invited to attend the series and postgraduate students, from honours upwards, are invited to present their research. The aim is to provide opportunities for students, staff and those from outside UQ, to present and discuss their work in an informal environment. It is hoped that anyone interested in current archaeological directions, both within and outside the School and University, will be able to attend and contribute to the series.