Brady James Liss

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

California, San Diego, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9872

Approve Date

April 30, 2019

Project Title

Liss, Brady (California, San Diego, U. of) "Copper, Culture, and Collapse: Modeling Natural Resource Depletion and Societal Collapse in Faynan, Jordan"

The proposed project examines the relationship between human-driven natural resource degradation/depletion and societal collapse through a new theoretical lens and archaeological case study in the Faynan region of Southern Jordan. During the Iron Age (ca. 1200-800 BCE), society in Faynan witnessed intertwined technological and cultural revolutions, transforming from opportunistic copper production by dissociated pastoral nomads to industrial-scale metallurgy connected to a regional polity (the Biblical Edomites). Previous research in Faynan identified a pinnacle in metallurgy (in terms of scale and efficiency) during the 10th-9th centuries BCE; yet, these advancements were followed by an abrupt industry abandonment by the end of the 9th century BCE with no associated evidence of natural or human intervention (such as a drought or warfare). It is hypothesized here that the significantly developed metallurgical technologies in Faynan led to over-exploitation of diminishing copper ores during the Iron Age, causing a failure of metallurgy, a subsequent breakdown of economic relationships, and societal collapse (in this case, a return to predominantly pastoral nomadic lifeways). By testing these hypotheses with an innovative methodology and theoretical perspective, this research can contribute to current understandings about the intimate relationships between society, technology, and the environment.