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Desert Societies and Imperial Powers: Conflicts, Resilience, and Coexistence in the Near East during the First Millennium CE
 
 
 
 

Desert Societies and Imperial Powers: Conflicts, Resilience, and Coexistence in the Near East during the First Millennium CE

 
Prof. Gideon Avni
 
Israel Antiquities Authority and the Hebrew University, Israel
 
 

The mythical narratives of a constant struggle between the desert and the sown have been shattered in the last decades facing modern archaeological and anthropological studies on desert societies. Detailed researches on present and past nomadic societies that lived in the fringe of settled communities show times and again that symbiotic relationships existed between nomads and settlers, leading in most cases to mutual coexistence. These relationships were heavily influenced by political circumstances, economic preferences, and environmental conditions. A major factor in the resilience of desert societies was their ability to adjust their subsistence needs to the changing circumstances in the social, political, and ecological levels. Extensive archaeological studies in the Negev, southern Jordan and the Syrian Desert during the last three decades provide valuable material on sustainability of past desert societies that lived in the fringe of the Mediterranean settled communities, presenting different models of resilience and adaptation. The nomads of the Near Eastern deserts in the In the classical and post classical periods adopted two models of resilient subsistence: 1. mutual coexistence of pastoral nomads with nearby rural and urban populations on the local level and 2. the development of nomadic kingdoms that took control on international trade routes and played a major role in the regional and global economic systems. Both models were developed as a response to the changing political, economic, and environmental circumstances. In this paper I will present several case studies, looking at different patterns of resilience and sustainability of past desert societies in the Near East during the first millennium.

The extended abstract and supplementary material