The utilization and extinction of Juniper trees from the Negev desert (Israel) - Data from a late 6th–5th millennia site of Har Harif

J. Vardi*, D. Yegorov, D. Degen-Eisenberg, E. Boaretto, D. Langgut, Y. Avni, V. Caracuta

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

The excavation of Har Harif 45, a campsite radiometrically dated to the 6th–5th millennia BCE, in the Negev highlands (Israel) uncovered many charcoals determined as Phoenician juniper (Juniperus phoenicea). Today, Phoenician juniper is absent from the Negev desert and can only be found on the ridges of northern Sinai (Egypt) and Jordan. Based on the relative abundance of polished stone axes and adzes found in Har Harif 45 in comparison to other contemporaneous sites, we suggest that the extinction of juniper trees from the Negev highlands was caused mainly by intensive and selective cutting of this highly beneficial woody species. On a wider view, the disappearance of Juniperus phoenicea from the Negev Desert provides a good example of human impact on the natural environment during the transition from hunter-gather societies to late Pottery Neolithic (and later periods of the 6th–5th millennia BC) pastoralist societies, where a greater population density increased the demand for natural resources such as juniper wood. We show that the archaeological evidence from Har Harif 45 combined with the archaeobotanical data sheds new light on the human influence on the Negev highland environment during the late 6th and 5th millennia BC.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104906
JournalJournal of Arid Environments
Volume210
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2023

Funding

FundersFunder number
Har HarifA-6464
Israel Antiquities Authority on behalf of the Ministry of Defense

    Keywords

    • Anthropogenic pressure
    • Chalcolithic
    • Extinction
    • Holocene
    • Juniper tree
    • Juniperus phoenicia
    • Late pottery neolithic
    • Negev desert
    • Paleoecology

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