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Alan Farahani, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Nevada-Las Vegas: "What can we learn from seeds and bones? An environmental archaeological approach to food, empire, and identity in Late Antique Central Jordan"

Event Type
Department of the Classics
wifi event
Feb 25, 2021   5:00 pm  
Alan Farahani, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Nevada-Las Vegas
Professor Brett Kaufman
Originating Calendar
School of Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics Calendar

Abstract: In thinking of how to answer questions of identity and empire in the human past, seeds and bones may not be the first forms of evidence that come to mind.  Nevertheless, this talk will illustrate how just such forms of archaeological evidence, namely plant remains (seeds) and animal bones, can provide insight into the complex negotiations of identity in imperial political contexts.  This talk will present archaeological evidence from the site of Dhiban, Jordan, a mound (or tall) that has been inhabited over the past five thousand years.  Eusebius, a 4th century CE ecclesiastical writer, called the site "a village in the remote wastes of Moab" in his time.  Archaeological evidence reveals that by the late 6th and early 7th century CE, however, the village was thriving on the periphery of the Byzantine empire.  The plant and animal evidence reveals a community involved in the management of imperially favored crops and animals, but still hunting, growing, and trading for foods likely imbued with local cultural meaning.  Therefore these data highlight the ecological, environmental, political, and cultural challenges and opportunities presented to these communities that would otherwise have gone unremarked in the written record. 


Biography: Alan Farahani is an anthropological archaeologist. He is interested in human-environment “interactions” through time on a theoretical and empirical level, which includes the relationships of people, plants, non-human animals, other biota, and abiotic factors. In particular, his research focuses on the ways in which social, environmental, and ecological phenomena form and are affected by agriculture. To that end, his specific methodological expertise is paleoethnobotany, or the analysis of archaeological plant remains. His geographic and temporal focus is centered on southwest Asia within the last ten thousand years (the Holocene), but with attention to all areas of the world that have seen agriculture develop as an important lifeway that communities use to create food, clothing, and medicine.


In addition, he is actively working on data analysis and visualization methods using open-source software (Python / R) for archaeological applications (and beyond), that can organize, efficiently analyze, and appropriately visualize the large amount of data generated in the course of archaeological fieldwork.  Methods include the development of databases ([no]SQL), the use of spatial analyses (GIS), reproducible analyses (R Markdown / Jupyter notebooks), and discipline specific methods such as morphometrics, generalized linear modeling, correspondence analysis, and rarefaction.


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