An Early Islamic Inter-Settlement Agroecosystem in the Coastal Sand of the Yavneh Dunefield, Israel

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This study examines the remains of an agricultural complex found in the Yavneh coastal dunefield, central Israel. Known as a plot-and-berm agroecosystem, the complex consisted of earthworks in a crisscross pattern of sand berms and sunken agricultural plots that were used for groundwater harvesting. The plots, which provided easy access to the high groundwater table and the berms around them, are overlaid by a gray sand unit covered by pottery sherds and artifacts. This gray sand is more fertile than the underlying sand, suggesting refuse enrichment. Artifactual similarity of the finds to those of inland (Tel) Yavneh suggests that Yavneh was the main source for the refuse additive. Based on artifacts and OSL ages it seems that this agroecosystem was active during the 10th to early 12th centuries a.d. The agroecosystem demonstrates an early example of an Early Islamic agrotechnological attempt in marginal and sandy regions of the Mediterranean basin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)551-569
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Field Archaeology
Issue number7
StatePublished - 3 Oct 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Moshe Fischer (Dept. of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures, Tel Aviv U.), who, along with Itamar Taxel, co-directs the Yavneh regional archaeological survey, for preliminary discussions on the studied sites. We thank Naomi Porat, Gala Faershtein, and Yael Jacobi (Geological Survey of Israel) for dating the OSL samples and Nimer Taha (Sedimentological Laboratory, U. of Haifa) for the sedimentological analyses. We thank Gilad Shtienberg (U. of Haifa) for helpful comments and data from Caesarea. We are also indebted to Michal Bir-kenfeld (Israel Antiquities Authority) and Yulia Goltlieb (Inst. of Archaeology, Tel Aviv U.) for preparing some of the figures. Dov Zviely (Ruppin Academic Center) is thanked for introducing Joel Roskin to the Caesarea plot-and-berm agroecosystem. Gad Ritbo (Hadera field service laboratory) is thanked for overseeing the analysis of the samples. The editor of the JFA, Prof. Christina Luke, is warmly thanked for the valuable time and patience she spent on this paper. Three anonymous reviewers and Kathleen Nicoll (U. of Utah) are thanked for constructive reviews. Ruth Freedman is kindly thanked for editing. The study is partly funded by Israel Energy and Water office and Achva Academic College research grants.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, © Trustees of Boston University 2018.


  • Early Islamic period
  • Mediterranean coastal dunefield
  • Yavneh
  • anthrosols
  • plot-and-berm groundwater harvesting agriculture
  • refuse utilization
  • sand sheet

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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