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Book Reviews of Interest
Millennial Landscape Change
in Jordan: Geoarchaeology
and Cultural Ecology
By Carlos E. Cordova. Tuscon: University of Arizona Press, 2007. Pp. xix +
254; figures and maps. Cloth, $55.00.
hat was the landscape of Jordan
like during glacial times or during the Bronze Age? How has climate
change influenced natural resources and
driven cultural adaptations? And, what
role have humans played in modifying
the Levant? In Millennial Landscape Change in Jordan, Carlos
Cordova addresses these and other long-standing research questions in cultural ecology. Many of these questions were first posed
by environmentalists and soil scientists working in the Near East
during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including
George Perkins Marsh, Walter Clay Lowdermilk, and Adolf
Reifenberg, then expanded by Cordova’s advisor, Karl Butzer,
who articulated the need to place past human cultures within
an ecological framework. Although difficult to solve, questions
of climate, environmental, and cultural change and the linkages
between them have persisted for more than a century because
they are fundamental to our understanding of the sustainability
of human civilizations.
Before opening the book, I was curious as to how Cordova
was going to discuss climate, culture, and landscape change for
more than two hundred pages in a region where paleoclimate
records are sparse and the records that are published often
conflict with one another. Not far into the book, however, I
realized that it addresses far more than millennial landscape
change. The book is structured into seven chapters that move
from introducing the reader to research questions regarding
the evolution of landscapes and culture in the Near East (ch.
1), to presenting the physical (ch. 2) and biological (chs. 3–4)
landscape of Jordan and how they have changed over time
(ch. 5). Cordova also examines cultural and environmental
change in Jordan (ch. 6), focusing mostly on the period from
circa 20,000 to circa 4,000 years ago, to identify subsistence
strategies, adaptations, and impacts of cultures to their environments. He then proposes major periods of environmental
250 NEAR EASTERN ARCHAEOLOGY 74:1 (2011)
crises that have affected the landscape and resident cultures.
Cordova concludes with a short chapter (ch. 7) summarizing
the main points and presenting new ideas about landscape
resilience and altering a landscape to the point where it can no
The book is effective at providing an overview of the physical
provinces and vegetation zones of Jordan, their associated geology and geomorphology, and the modern climate. In a region
where there are few compilations of the physical geography, it
is a good resource for scholars and students alike. Cordova provides a comprehensive overview and cites enough of the scientific literature to send readers along the research trail, if they are
so inclined. In chapter 2 on the “Physical Scene,” Cordova even
reviews the fauna of Jordan, including its mammals, reptiles,
amphibians, insects and spiders! Chapter 3, on the “Endowed
Landscape” of Jordan, discusses Jordan’s woodlands from their
current distribution and make-up (i.e., species distribution) to
what has happened to them historically and the efforts today to
protect these national treasures. Chapter 4 tackles the subject
of encroaching drylands (steppe and desert) and includes the
modern distribution and composition of the Irano-Turanian
steppe and the Saharo-Arabian Desert. Here Cordova discusses
the traditional relationship between humans and these vegetation zones, including how nomadic and seminomadic people
used these landscapes and the impacts that humans have had
Perhaps the most ambitious task Cordova tackles in detail is
the topic of climate and ecological change (ch. 5). This is formidable because there are so few climate records from Jordan, and
those that have been published can be difficult to interpret and
often contradict one another. Cordova provides an overview of
the different types of climate and ecological records, first from
surrounding regions, then from within Jordan itself. He blends
in his own research activities in Jordan, including his work on
the alluvial stratigraphy in the Madaba-Dhiban region, relict
stands of forests, and Olea pollen and savannah flora, with
records developed by other researchers, giving both a comprehensive and inside perspective on this difficult subject. While
Cordova provides a thorough overview of the different types
of paleoclimate and paleoecological records in Jordan, he stops
short of critically assessing the validity of different paleoclimate
and paleoecological records in Jordan.
In chapter 5, Cordova concludes that, “as a general pattern,
cold events mean dryness, while the opposite can be said for
warm stages and events” (124). However, the story appears to
be more complicated than this. For example, evidence from
Lake Lisan (the Dead Sea paleolake) and other regional records
indicate that the Levant receives enhanced precipitation during colder periods due to the intensification of the westerlies
circulation and increased frequency of Cyprus lows bringing
precipitation to the eastern Mediterrannean (as was first suggested by Karl Butzer in 1958). In other words, somewhat cold
events mean wetter conditions. (There is clear evidence that
Lake Lisan was high during glacial periods and low during
interglacials, including today.) However, there is also evidence
that the eastern Mediterranean dries out during exceptionally
cold periods such as the Last Glacial Maximum (24,000–18,000
years ago) and during the Younger Dryas event (12,800–11,400
years ago). Lake Lisan reached its highest level—over 700 feet
higher than today—during colder times from 29,000 to 25,000
years ago, then dropped to about 400 feet higher than today
during last glacial maximum.
In chapter 6 Cordova pulls together data on climatic, cultural,
and ecological change in Jordan in an attempt to examine patterns of millennial landscape alteration and cultural ecology.
He presents evidence of the past ecology and ecological change
in Jordan and how the local environment likely influenced
human behavior. Examples of this include the impact of the
Younger Dryas cold event on culture and population growth
in the following millennia, when woodlands were abundant.
Cordova also identifies other major environmental crises, when
landscape resilience was pushed beyond its ability to recover,
including the end of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period around
9,500 years ago and at the end of the third millennium b.c.e.
Cordova concludes the book with a short summary on the
timing of environmental crises, the significance of the long
and intense impact of humans during the Holocene, and how
this has influenced later civilizations (i.e., Cordova’s concept of
I have only one cautionary note about this book. Cordova
consistently (I think) puts all ages in radiocarbon years and
reports radiocarbon years as ka BP (kilo annum, or thousands of years, before present), a designation that is generally
restricted to refer to calendar ages. For example, he consistently
reports the age of the Younger Dryas Event as occurring from
10,800 to 10,000 ka BP when it occurred between 10,800 to
10,000 14C ka BP (or 12,800 to 11,400 calendar years ago). I am
afraid that many readers will get confused by this nonstandard
That being said, this work is of great value to scholars and
students alike. It is targeted partly at scholars working in archeology, earth science, and related fields in the Near East, but
Cordova also states that it is directed toward students participating in archaeological field schools in Jordan and geography
students interested in environmental issues in the Middle East.
In particular, the book is an invaluable resource for gaining
access into the archaeological literature pertaining to Jordan,
where so much of the data are stored in edited volumes and
one-time proceedings that are difficult for people outside the
discipline to learn about and find. In sum, this book will serve
as a great resource to those interested in the cultural and climatic history of Jordan and inspire future generations of scholars, who ultimately will be the ones to solve these questions.
Miami University, Ohio
Taureador Scenes in Tell elDab‘a (Avaris) and Knossos
By Manfred Bietak, Nannó Marinatos, and Clairy Palivou, with a
contribution by Ann Brysbaert.
Denkschriften der Gesamtakademie 43; Untersuchungen der
Zweigstelle Kairo des Österreichischen Archäologischen
Institutes 27. Vienna: Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2007. Pp. 173; figures and maps. Cloth, $113.00.
he news of the Minoan style frescoes discovered at Tell
el-Dab‘a elicited tremendous interest and excitement even
before a collective gasp swept through the hall when Manfred
Bietak presented them at the Function of the Minoan Villa
Conference in 1992. The present volume seeks to address many
of the questions raised by this discovery in a post-Bernalian and
postprocessual academic climate, where it is again acceptable if
not trendy to study interconnections so long as the pendulum
remains suspended midway between the unrealistic extremes
of hyper-diffusionism and isolated, indigenous development.
Among the many questions that the paintings have raised: Did
Cretan artists or trained imitators paint them? What is the role
of art versus technology in assigning authorship? Why were they
NEAR EASTERN ARCHAEOLOGY 74:1 (2011) 251
bacteria blooms and flammable rivers, to the work of the
Tennessee Valley Authority as a combination of a federal
river management agency and private power company,
Martin Doyle presents the water struggles which America is
facing in the present and their relationship to the hardships
of the past. To do this, The Source is divided into five parts.
Part one explores federalism in America and how it plays a
vital part in understanding how levees work. The author
includes how the U.S. Constitution was first proposed during
By Martin Doyle. W. W. Norton &
negotiations on interstate commerce along U.S. waterways
Company, 2018. 352 pages.
as an alternative to the Articles of Confederation. In Part
two, the author explains water sovereignty and property, and
describes battles over water rights as a resource and a
commodity. Parts three, four, and five then inspect the
ife as we know it is utterly,
taxation, regulation, and conservation of rivers and how
totally, and undeniably dependent
Americans’ continual struggle between the utilization and
on water. The first life on Earth
protection of rivers causes legislative controversies. Which
formed deep within the oceans
waterways should or shouldn’t be protected by law? Who is
surrounding hydrothermal vents. The
responsible for the protection and remediation of waterways?
human body contains up to 70% water and cannot go more
Each section brings new and fascinating information to the
than 10 days without adding fluids. Because of our
reader, answering some questions and creating even more.
dependence, civilizations have grown and prospered
The Source was an engaging interplay of geography,
surrounding water. The Mesopotamian River Valley
geology, and U.S. history. It made the history and science of
Civilization, Indus River Valley Civilization, and the Nile
American rivers more relatable through personal anecdotes
River Valley Civilization were able to maintain large
and the various connections people have with the land and
populations due to their proximity to rivers and fostered
water. Although there were few pictures, they greatly
innovation and invention to utilize the fertile soil found in
contributed to the visualization of the significant people and
the rivers’ floodplains. These were the first great
events surrounding American waterways. I found The
civilizations from which future societies flowed. America
Source to be well written and thoroughly researched, giving
has been able to support its sizeable and growing
the reader a deeper appreciation for the otherwise
population for the same reason. The U.S. is largely
underappreciated topic of fluvial geopolitical history. The
covered by water; the Mississippi River watershed
book was a nexus of economic and philosophical ideas, and
transports 390 billion gallons of water per day across over
although the book was not humorous per se, there was a
a million square miles, and over 250 thousand rivers
certain lightness to its pages in contrast to the typical
transverse more than 3 million miles, wrapping the
solemnity on such a topic.
landscape in their dendritic embrace. The Source, by
My primary concern with The Source was a function
Martin Doyle, is a journey that explores America’s
Because it covered such a large range of
economic, political, and physical landscape along Earth’s
topics, it left out some key information I thought should be
fluvial highways. Doyle bases his conclusions on archival
included. This includes the environmental ramifications of
research and the experiences of people whose lives revolve
key decisions, and the unique water issues that poor and
around water resources. To understand Americans, follow
underrepresented Americans must face. Also, The Source
the money, but to understand America follow the rivers.
overwhelmingly focuses on Eastern U.S. water issues, with
The Source ties together rivers and American history
little consideration for the drought-ridden West. Finally,
through the experiences of the author (Martin Doyle) and the
while issues of public finance are a very real obstacle to
lives of Americans who work to control and protect
overcome, the topic was discussed too much for a book on
America’s waterways. Martin Doyle is a professor of river
the history of America’s rivers. However, these qualms were
science and water policy at Duke University. He established
minor and did not detract from the book’s impact.
the Natural Resources Investment Center within the U.S.
In conclusion, I found The Source to be a fantastic book,
Department of the Interior and worked at the Institute for
history and American spirit. It is written as more of a
Water Resources for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In
than a novel and may not be appreciated by
his research, Doyle traveled across the United States to learn
in the logistics of American waterways
from sandbag crews in Mississippi during a flood, a hedge
and their history. However, this book reminds us that rivers came
fund manager in Nevada who specializes in water-based
first and everything human came after, and The Source does a
investments, and an Oregon rancher who utilizes beavers to
fantastic job of leading the reader through the tumultuous and
help restore his land. From a wastewater treatment plant
ever-evolving relationship between humankind and water, the
supervisor who plans development to prevent harmful
fundamental resource making human life possible.
The Source: How Rivers Made
America and America Remade its
Please first watch these two videos. Then answering the following questions.
1.Abrupt climate change Aberrations:
2.Abrupt climate change Millennia loscillations
1.What were the three main climate aberrations during the Cenozoic (last 65 Ma)?
Group of answer choicesa.
a.Pliocene Warm period, the PETM, and the Miocene 1 glaciation
b. the PETM, The Oligocene 1 glaciation, and the Miocene Warm Period
c. the PETM, the Oligocene 1 glaciation, and the Miocene Warm Period
d. the PETM, the Oligocene 1 glaciation, and the Miocene 1 glaciation
2. How long do climate aberrations seem to last?
Group of answer choicesa.
a. few thousand years
b. a few tens of thousands of years
c. a few hundred thousand years
d. a few million years
3. Which of the following is incorrect regarding the massive release of methane
during the PETM?
Group of answer choicesa.
a. it was sourced from methane on the ocean floor
b. it caused the ocean to become acidic
c. it dramatically increased atmospheric CO2 levels
d. it was the initial cause of the PETM warming
4. Why is the PETM important?
Group of answer choicesa.
a.because climate in the Eocene was very similar to today
b. because ice sheets were becoming unstable at this time
c. because it may be an analog for potential outcomes of current warming
d. because we currently have similar atmospheric CO2 concentrations as during the
5. What is the Elmo event?
Group of answer choicesa. a glaciation during the Oligocene
b. another Eocene hyperthermal
c. a Pleistocene warming event
d. an Eocene glacial event
6. Which of the following is not true regarding millennial scale climate change?
Group of answer choicesa. we first learned about the magnitude and recurrence
interval from the Greenland ice cores
b. ocean sediment cores from areas of high deposition rates have identified millennial
scale climate events
c. millennial scale events are similar during glacial and interglacial periods
d. millennial scale climate change seem to be driven mainly by changes in ocean
circulation during massive discharge events of icebergs
7. If an armada of icebergs was released in the North Atlantic, how might this affect
Group of answer choicesa.
a. The release of the ice rafted debris would clog up the formation of North Atlantic
b. The fresh water from the iceberg melt could reduce the density of North Atlantic
Water and prevent North Atlantic Deep Water formation.
c. The icebergs would increase the salinity of the North Atlantic and cause more
North Atlantic Deep Water to form.
d. Both A and B are correct.
8. Which of the following is correct regarding Dansgaard-Oeschger and Heinrich
Group of answer choicesa.
a. Dansgaard-Oeschger events originate off of Scandinavia and Heinrich events
originate off the coast of Germany
b. Dansgarrd-Oeschger events result from the discharge of icebergs whereas Heinrich
events result from meltwater discharges
c. Heinrich events are large Dansgaard-Oeschger events
d. Heinrich events are more common that Dansgaard-Oeschger events
9. Millennial-scale climate events recorded in the Antarctica ice cores are
Group of answer choicesa. much smaller in magnitude than those recorded in the
Greenland ice cores
b. appear to be opposite in temperature
c. are associated with thermohaline circulation in the Pacific Ocean
d. most of the above
e. all of the above
10. Millennial scale climate oscillations can only occur during glacial periods as they
are the result of feedbacks between the oceans and ice sheets.
Group of answer choicesTrue
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