Ancient technology and punctuated change: Detecting the emergence of the Edomite Kingdom in the Southern Levant.
ABSTRACT: While the punctuated equilibrium model has been employed in paleontological and archaeological research, it has rarely been applied for technological and social evolution in the Holocene. Using metallurgical technologies from the Wadi Arabah (Jordan/Israel) as a case study, we demonstrate a gradual technological development (13th-10th c. BCE) followed by a human agency-triggered punctuated "leap" (late-10th c. BCE) simultaneously across the entire region (an area of ~2000 km2). Here, we present an unparalleled, diachronic archaeometallurgical dataset focusing on elemental analysis of dozens of well-dated slag samples. Based on the results, we suggest punctuated equilibrium provides an innovative theoretical model for exploring ancient technological changes in relation to larger sociopolitical conditions-in the case at hand the emergence of biblical Edom-, exemplifying its potential for more general cross-cultural applications.
Project description:Recent excavations and high-precision radiocarbon dating from the largest Iron Age (IA, ca. 1200-500 BCE) copper production center in the southern Levant demonstrate major smelting activities in the region of biblical Edom (southern Jordan) during the 10th and 9th centuries BCE. Stratified radiocarbon samples and artifacts were recorded with precise digital surveying tools linked to a geographic information system developed to control on-site spatial analyses of archaeological finds and model data with innovative visualization tools. The new radiocarbon dates push back by 2 centuries the accepted IA chronology of Edom. Data from Khirbat en-Nahas, and the nearby site of Rujm Hamra Ifdan, demonstrate the centrality of industrial-scale metal production during those centuries traditionally linked closely to political events in Edom's 10th century BCE neighbor ancient Israel. Consequently, the rise of IA Edom is linked to the power vacuum created by the collapse of Late Bronze Age (LB, ca. 1300 BCE) civilizations and the disintegration of the LB Cypriot copper monopoly that dominated the eastern Mediterranean. The methodologies applied to the historical IA archaeology of the Levant have implications for other parts of the world where sacred and historical texts interface with the material record.
Project description:The analogies and differences between biological and cultural evolution have been explored by evolutionary biologists, historians, engineers and linguists alike. Two well-known domains of cultural change are language and technology. Both share some traits relating the evolution of species, but technological change is very difficult to study. A major challenge in our way towards a scientific theory of technological evolution is how to properly define evolutionary trees or clades and how to weight the role played by horizontal transfer of information. Here, we study the large-scale historical development of programming languages, which have deeply marked social and technological advances in the last half century. We analyse their historical connections using network theory and reconstructed phylogenetic networks. Using both data analysis and network modelling, it is shown that their evolution is highly uneven, marked by innovation events where new languages are created out of improved combinations of different structural components belonging to previous languages. These radiation events occur in a bursty pattern and are tied to novel technological and social niches. The method can be extrapolated to other systems and consistently captures the major classes of languages and the widespread horizontal design exchanges, revealing a punctuated evolutionary path.
Project description:Is gradual microevolutionary change within species simultaneously the source of macroevolutionary differentiation between species? Since its first publication, Darwin's original idea that phenotypic differences between species develop gradually over time, as the accumulation of small selection-induced changes in successive generations has been challenged by palaeontologists claiming that, instead, new species quickly acquire their phenotypes to remain virtually unchanged until going extinct again. This controversy, widely known as the 'punctuated equilibrium' debate, remained unresolved, largely owing to the difficulty of distinguishing biological species from fossil remains. We analysed body masses of 2143 existing mammal species on a phylogeny comprising 4510 (i.e. nearly all) extant species to estimate rates of gradual (anagenetic) and speciational (cladogenetic) evolution. Our Bayesian estimates from mammals as well as separate sub-clades such as primates and carnivores suggest that gradual evolution is responsible for only a small part of body size variation between mammal species.
Project description:RNA viruses possess the potential for rapid evolution and serve as excellent models to test evolutionary theory. Molecular phylogenetic analysis of the P gene for a larger number of diverse natural isolates of vesicular stomatitis virus reveals no evidence for a molecular clock but instead shows a stepwise evolutionary pattern unlike that ever seen before. Each step out from the tree's ancestral root to terminal branch tips correlates not with time of virus isolation but with a south-to-north geographical progression from Panama to the United States. The grossly unequal rates of change within this single species imply an underlying mechanism at odds with the prevailing notion that neutral changes are the dominating feature of molecular evolution. This is also a demonstration of punctuated equilibrium at the molecular level.
Project description:Arad is a well preserved desert fort on the southern frontier of the biblical kingdom of Judah. Excavation of the site yielded over 100 Hebrew ostraca (ink inscriptions on potsherds) dated to ca. 600 BCE, the eve of Nebuchadnezzar's destruction of Jerusalem. Due to the site's isolation, small size and texts that were written in a short time span, the Arad corpus holds important keys to understanding dissemination of literacy in Judah. Here we present the handwriting analysis of 18 Arad inscriptions, including more than 150 pair-wise assessments of writer's identity. The examination was performed by two new algorithmic handwriting analysis methods and independently by a professional forensic document examiner. To the best of our knowledge, no such large-scale pair-wise assessments of ancient documents by a forensic expert has previously been published. Comparison of forensic examination with algorithmic analysis is also unique. Our study demonstrates substantial agreement between the results of these independent methods of investigation. Remarkably, the forensic examination reveals a high probability of at least 12 writers within the analyzed corpus. This is a major increment over the previously published algorithmic estimations, which revealed 4-7 writers for the same assemblage. The high literacy rate detected within the small Arad stronghold, estimated (using broadly-accepted paleo-demographic coefficients) to have accommodated 20-30 soldiers, demonstrates widespread literacy in the late 7th century BCE Judahite military and administration apparatuses, with the ability to compose biblical texts during this period a possible by-product.
Project description:Past excavations in Samaria, capital of biblical Israel, yielded a corpus of Hebrew ink on clay inscriptions (ostraca) that documents wine and oil shipments to the palace from surrounding localities. Many questions regarding these early 8th century BCE texts, in particular the location of their composition, have been debated. Authorship in countryside villages or estates would attest to widespread literacy in a relatively early phase of ancient Israel's history. Here we report an algorithmic investigation of 31 of the inscriptions. Our study establishes that they were most likely written by two scribes who recorded the shipments in Samaria. We achieved our results through a method comprised of image processing and newly developed statistical learning techniques. These outcomes contrast with our previous results, which indicated widespread literacy in the kingdom of Judah a century and half to two centuries later, ca. 600 BCE.
Project description:Despite the important roles that horses have played in human history, particularly in the spread of languages and cultures, and correspondingly intensive research on this topic, the origin of domestic horses remains elusive. Several domestication centers have been hypothesized, but most of these have been invalidated through recent paleogenetic studies. Anatolia is a region with an extended history of horse exploitation that has been considered a candidate for the origins of domestic horses but has never been subject to detailed investigation. Our paleogenetic study of pre- and protohistoric horses in Anatolia and the Caucasus, based on a diachronic sample from the early Neolithic to the Iron Age (~8000 to ~1000 BCE) that encompasses the presumed transition from wild to domestic horses (4000 to 3000 BCE), shows the rapid and large-scale introduction of domestic horses at the end of the third millennium BCE. Thus, our results argue strongly against autochthonous independent domestication of horses in Anatolia.
Project description:Archaeological accounts of cultural change reveal a fundamental conflict: Some suggest that change is gradual, accelerating over time, whereas others indicate that it is punctuated, with long periods of stasis interspersed by sudden gains or losses of multiple traits. Existing models of cultural evolution, inspired by models of genetic evolution, lend support to the former and do not generate trajectories that include large-scale punctuated change. We propose a simple model that can give rise to both exponential and punctuated patterns of gain and loss of cultural traits. In it, cultural innovation comprises several realistic interdependent processes that occur at different rates. The model also takes into account two properties intrinsic to cultural evolution: the differential distribution of traits among social groups and the impact of environmental change. In our model, a population may be subdivided into groups with different cultural repertoires leading to increased susceptibility to cultural loss, whereas environmental change may lead to rapid loss of traits that are not useful in a new environment. Taken together, our results suggest the usefulness of a concept of an effective cultural population size.
Project description:The extent to which prehistoric migrations of farmers influenced the genetic pool of western North Africans remains unclear. Archaeological evidence suggests that the Neolithization process may have happened through the adoption of innovations by local Epipaleolithic communities or by demic diffusion from the Eastern Mediterranean shores or Iberia. Here, we present an analysis of individuals' genome sequences from Early and Late Neolithic sites in Morocco and from Early Neolithic individuals from southern Iberia. We show that Early Neolithic Moroccans (?5,000 BCE) are similar to Later Stone Age individuals from the same region and possess an endemic element retained in present-day Maghrebi populations, confirming a long-term genetic continuity in the region. This scenario is consistent with Early Neolithic traditions in North Africa deriving from Epipaleolithic communities that adopted certain agricultural techniques from neighboring populations. Among Eurasian ancient populations, Early Neolithic Moroccans are distantly related to Levantine Natufian hunter-gatherers (?9,000 BCE) and Pre-Pottery Neolithic farmers (?6,500 BCE). Late Neolithic (?3,000 BCE) Moroccans, in contrast, share an Iberian component, supporting theories of trans-Gibraltar gene flow and indicating that Neolithization of North Africa involved both the movement of ideas and people. Lastly, the southern Iberian Early Neolithic samples share the same genetic composition as the Cardial Mediterranean Neolithic culture that reached Iberia ?5,500 BCE. The cultural and genetic similarities between Iberian and North African Neolithic traditions further reinforce the model of an Iberian migration into the Maghreb.
Project description:Coralgal reefs preserve the signatures of sea-level fluctuations over Earth's history, in particular since the Last Glacial Maximum 20,000 years ago, and are used in this study to indicate that punctuated sea-level rise events are more common than previously observed during the last deglaciation. Recognizing the nature of past sea-level rises (i.e., gradual or stepwise) during deglaciation is critical for informing models that predict future vertical behavior of global oceans. Here we present high-resolution bathymetric and seismic sonar data sets of 10 morphologically similar drowned reefs that grew during the last deglaciation and spread 120?km apart along the south Texas shelf edge. Herein, six commonly observed terrace levels are interpreted to be generated by several punctuated sea-level rise events forcing the reefs to shrink and backstep through time. These systematic and common terraces are interpreted to record punctuated sea-level rise events over timescales of decades to centuries during the last deglaciation, previously recognized only during the late Holocene.