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Durham University

Department of Archaeology


Publication details for Professor Graham Philip

Geyer, B., Braemer, F., Davtian, G. & Philip, G. (2019). A geo-archaeological approach to the study of hydro-agricultural systems in arid areas of Western Syria. Journal of Arid Environments 163: 99-113.

Author(s) from Durham


Over the last 30 years, geoarchaeological surveys undertaken in the Near East have offered a
powerful way of studying, inter alia, water supply systems at a microregional to regional scale.
However, efforts to synthesize the results of surveys at a sub-continental scale in order to
understand local differences and similarities, and compare local strategies through time, require
specific tools. In this paper, we develop a methodology designed to characterize and facilitate
comparison of strategies employed across the arid areas of Western Syria. This requires
microregional field studies undertaken at the level of specific landscapes to be integrated within
a wider GIS framework, based upon thematic layers (soils, rainfalls, hydrology) at a uniform
spatial scale of assessment (in this case the pixel of a Landsat image), and a common description
of the agronomic potential in those areas in which specific hydraulic installations were
employed. In contrast to the usual practice of modelling, which depends upon the downscaling
of environmental data (land cover, rainfall maps) generated at a continental scale, we stress
here the need to generalize upwards, from observations made at the microregional level, by
using common descriptors and qualitative indicators. The GIS analysis of these data provides a
weighted average model derived from field evidence for the different technical choices made
(i.e. the decision to utilize specific water management devices) in relation to the various
agronomic landscapes.