Reorganization and Risk: Environmental Change and Tribal Land Use in Marginal Landscapes of Southern Jordan
This research on the early metal ages of the Wadi el-Hasa focuses on settlement systems and attempts to explain how social, economic and political adjustments helped tribal groups survive under natural (i.e., climatic) and anthropogenic (i.e., land degradation, erosion) stress factors. The shifting of subsistence base from agropastoral to pastoral is reflected in site and population densities, diversity of site types, levels of internal complexity, and levels of social organization via the presence of large settlements, like villages, which acted as economic and administrative centers emerge as risk reduction mechanisms.
The cycles of abandonment and resettlement are evaluated within the concept of social reorganization and such changes are assessed as parts of economic revitalization attempts. The social changes that emerge from such shifts are evaluated from the perspective of the scale-free networks modeled and tested through statistical methods, such as ANOVA, for spatial and temporal patterns, while patterns of land use and the impacts of changing climate and anthropogenic activities are evaluated with GIS.
Following the dimorphic society and heterarchic social organization concepts, the discussion emphasizes that tribal groups adjust population density, range and intensity of activities in marginal landscapes, like the Hasa, in order to prevent environmental degradation. These patterns may change once these marginal landscapes are integrated to more complex social organizations. Although this takes place in the Hasa during the Iron Age, the research results imply that environmental degradation did not take place possibly due to the continuation of extensive subsistence patterns, along with the emergence of the long-distance caravan trade as a major economic incentive.