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PhD in archaeobotany “Emergence and evolution of the oasis in north-western Arabia”

This offer is available in the following languages:
Français - Anglais

Date Limite Candidature : vendredi 26 août 2022

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General information

Reference : UMR7209-CHABOU-004
Workplace : PARIS 05
Date of publication : Friday, August 5, 2022
Scientific Responsible name : Charlène Bouchaud
Type of Contract : PhD Student contract / Thesis offer
Contract Period : 36 months
Start date of the thesis : 1 October 2022
Proportion of work : Full time
Remuneration : 2 135,00 € gross monthly

Description of the thesis topic

The history of Humans in arid environments has always been closely linked to that of water and its availability over time. From prehistoric times to historical periods, the populations of arid regions have successively taken advantage of isolates benefiting from significant water resources (refuge areas) and then modified their environment in order to build social and environmental niches, the oases (Khalidi et al. 2018). Oases are intensively cultivated spaces in climatic zones marked by a deficit water balance (Lacoste [online]). In the Middle East, these oases are deeply structured by the date palm (Phoenix dactylifera). The emergence of this plant, in combination with other associated crops (fruit trees, cereals), are observed in Mesopotamia, southeastern Iran, and eastern Arabia around 5,000 years ago (Ancient Bronze Age), in parallel with a slow process of sedentarization of human populations (Tengberg 2012). In North-western Arabia, recent archaeological discoveries point to the appearance of "urban" oases in the same period. These oases appear to be characterized by delimited areas of habitat and agriculture ("walled oases") (Charloux et al. 2021; Luciani 2021) without any clear idea of the associated agrosystems. In particular, the emergence of date palm cultivation is, in the current state of our knowledge, dated back to the end of the 2nd millennium B.C. (Dinies et al. 2016; Rohmer et al. in press). From the earliest agricultural forms to the current intensive monocultures, Arabia experiences strong dynamics of activities and exchanges influencing oasis agrosystems and the surrounding environment. The doctoral project will aim to study the dynamics of plant resource use in northwestern Arabia using archaeobotanical dataset from several archaeological sites in the Al Ula region (Dadan, Hegra, Khaybar) and a comparison site located further north (Al Bad) whose periods of occupation range from the 6th millennium to the present. The study corpus includes carpological (seeds & fruits) and anthracological (charcoal) remains preserved in sediment samples. The study of plant remains, associated with an interdisciplinary reflection conducted in a dynamic scientific framework and benefiting from direct radiocarbon dating, will thus shed light on the genesis and evolution of oasis agrosystems over several millennia.
Charloux G, AlMalki T, AlQaeed A (2021) The “walled oases” phenomenon. A study of the ramparts in Dūmat al-Jandal and other pre-Islamic sites in north-western Arabia. Arab Archaeol Epigr n/a: https://doi.org/10.1111/aae.12177
Dinies M, Neef R, Plessen B, Kürschner H (2016) Holocene vegetation, climate, land use and plant cultivation in the Tayma region, northwestern Arabia. In: Luciani M (ed) The archaeology of North Arabia. Oases and landscapes. Proceedings of the International congress held at the University of Vienna, 5-8 December, 2013. Austrian Academy of Science Press, Vienna, pp 57–78
Khalidi L, Charbonnier S, Purdue L (eds) (2018) From refugia to oases. Living in arid environments from prehistoric times to the present day. Actes des XXXVIIIe Rencontres Internationales d'Archéologie et d'Histoire d'Antibes. éditions APDCA, Antibes
Lacoste Y ([en ligne]) Oasis. In: Encyclopedia Universalis
Luciani M (2021) On the Formation of 'Urban'Oases in Arabia: New Perspectives from the North-west. In: Luciani M (ed) The Archaeology of the Arabian Peninsula 2. Connecting the Evidence. Proceedings of the Workshop held at the 10th ICAANE in Vienna, April 2016. Austrian Academy of Science Press, Vienna, pp 89–118
Rohmer J, Lesguer F, Bouchaud C, et al (in press) New clues to the development of the oasis of Dadan. Results from a test excavation at Tall al-Sālimīyyah (al-ʿUlā, Saudi Arabia). Proc Semin Arab Stud
Tengberg M (2012) Beginnings and early history of date palm garden cultivation in the Middle East. J Arid Environ 86:139–147. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaridenv.2011.11.022

Charloux G, AlMalki T, AlQaeed A (2021) The “walled oases” phenomenon. A study of the ramparts in Dūmat al-Jandal and other pre-Islamic sites in north-western Arabia. Arab Archaeol Epigr n/a: https://doi.org/10.1111/aae.12177
Dinies M, Neef R, Plessen B, Kürschner H (2016) Holocene vegetation, climate, land use and plant cultivation in the Tayma region, northwestern Arabia. In: Luciani M (ed) The archaeology of North Arabia. Oases and landscapes. Proceedings of the International congress held at the University of Vienna, 5-8 December, 2013. Austrian Academy of Science Press, Vienna, pp 57–78
Khalidi L, Charbonnier S, Purdue L (eds) (2018) From refugia to oases. Living in arid environments from prehistoric times to the present day. Actes des XXXVIIIe Rencontres Internationales d'Archéologie et d'Histoire d'Antibes. éditions APDCA, Antibes
Lacoste Y ([en ligne]) Oasis. In: Encyclopedia Universalis
Luciani M (2021) On the Formation of 'Urban'Oases in Arabia: New Perspectives from the North-west. In: Luciani M (ed) The Archaeology of the Arabian Peninsula 2. Connecting the Evidence. Proceedings of the Workshop held at the 10th ICAANE in Vienna, April 2016. Austrian Academy of Science Press, Vienna, pp 89–118
Rohmer J, Lesguer F, Bouchaud C, et al (in press) New clues to the development of the oasis of Dadan. Results from a test excavation at Tall al-Sālimīyyah (al-ʿUlā, Saudi Arabia). Proc Semin Arab Stud
Tengberg M (2012) Beginnings and early history of date palm garden cultivation in the Middle East. J Arid Environ 86:139–147. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaridenv.2011.11.022

Work Context

The doctoral student will benefit from a doctoral contract from the CNRS, which is one of the main European research organisations. He or she will be part of the ED 227 of the National museum for natural history (MNHN-SU) and hosted in the laboratory AASPE « Archéozoologie, Archéobotanique, Sociétés, Pratiques, Environnements » located at the 43 rue Buffon, Paris 5th. Part of the corpus is already present at the laboratory. Participation in several archaeological excavations in Saudi Arabia during the first two years of the contract will complete the corpus of studies that will be studied in the laboratory at the MNHN.

Constraints and risks

Archaeological mission in Saudi Arabia

Additional Information

Students with a very good background in archaeobotany (study of plant macro-remains – seeds&fruits, charcoal)
Proficiency in written and spoken English in order to be able to write reports of results and present them at meetings and conferences
The multidisciplinary and collaborative context of this project requires that the candidate has a strong motivation, a curiosity to broaden his or her field of expertise, autonomy and an ability to work in a team.

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