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Localizing the Imperial Grain Economy in Mamluk Syria: Expressions of Village-Level Initiatives in 14th-Century Transjordan

Author(s): Bethany Walker

Year: 2017

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Summary

How did the medieval Islamic state realize its objectives in natural resource management? How can we distinguish the "hand of the state" from that of local initiatives in land use? This paper is an attempt to evaluate planting and watering strategies, differentiating imperial agro-policies from local practice at the village level. The focus is the intensification and diversification of grain production in 14th century Syria. Grain fields were the most valuable of the agrarian iqṭaʿāt (grants of tax revenues) assigned to military and administrative officers; they were the financial underpinning of the medieval Islamic state. The history of grain production is one lens through which to study the development of governance in the Mamluk Sultanate (1250-1517 CE).Tall Hisban in central Jordan, a rural site that physically dominates the grain fields of the Madaba Plains, provides a case in point. Excavations there, integrated with textual and multi-pronged palaeobotanical analyses, are revealing ways that village communities, combining traditional know-how and innovation, came to actualize state programs aimed at maximizing, and guaranteeing reliable, grain yields. Grain production is likewise compared to the sugar industry and market-oriented terrace gardening, which were also impacted by state policy and have left physical and textual traces.


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Localizing the Imperial Grain Economy in Mamluk Syria: Expressions of Village-Level Initiatives in 14th-Century Transjordan. Bethany Walker. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429796)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: 25.225; min lat: 15.115 ; max long: 66.709; max lat: 45.583 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14725

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America