Prof. Guy Bar-Oz, University of Haifa

Crisis on the margins of the Byzantine Empire: A bio-archaeological project on resilience and collapse in early Christian development of the Negev Desert  

Research funded by the European Research Council (ERC) and Israel Sceince Foundation (ISF) examines new approaches to documenting collapse in ancient complex societies, looking into the case of Byzantine settlement in the Negev Desert (4th-7th c. CE) across the Islamic conquest of the southern Levant. Unique contexts such as ancient urban landfills, sealed and abandoned residential structures, and relict agricultural fields provide rich data repositories, where information on both cultural and environmental dynamics—internal and external processes for generating change—is superimposed. Findings drawn from analyses of plant and animal remains, radiocarbon dates, material culture and sediments suggest a much more complicated sequence of transformation from Byzantine to Islamic society than was previously appreciated. An integrated and high-resolution approach to synthesizing these data aims to link the chain of societal events to a series of potential causal factors, including climate change, natural disaster, war and conflict, and human resilience to reach comprehensive understanding of this historical trajectory.