Toxic Ecologies of Occupation


Brian Boyd: In June 2012, with a small group of Palestinian colleagues, I entered the Wadi en-Natuf in Palestine for the first time since 2000. In June 2000, it looked like this:


Since 2000, I have been involved in an archaeological project centered in and around the small (population 4,500) Palestinian town of Shuqba in the West Bank (Ramallah and Al-Bireh district). Shuqba gives its name to a large cave in the nearby Wadi en-Natuf, a river valley that runs close to the town. This cave was excavated by the British archaeologist Dorothy Garrod in 1928, during the turbulent early years of the British Mandate. Garrod is a central figure for women's involvement in the history and practice of archaeology. At Shuqba she worked with a team composed primarily of young Palestinian women from the local area, a choice that was unusual for both the date and the region. Garrod subsequently became the first woman professor at the University of Cambridge (1939-1952) and was instrumental in securing admission for women students to the university in 1948. Her pioneering archaeological fieldwork at Shuqba laid the foundations for the prehistory of the entire Levant region and left a complex series of scientific research questions into what has become known in the (still lingering) old cultural-historical archaeological terminology as the "Natufian culture" (ca. 10 to 13 thousand years ago), named after the Wadi en-Natuf at Shuqba. This is when and where archaeologists have traditionally located the earliest origins of agriculture, sedentism, and subsequent plant and animal domestication, as well as the very beginnings of those profound environmental and ecological changes wrought by human occupation, now referred to as the Anthropocene. After Garrod left Palestine in 1928, no further archaeological work was carried out at Shuqba until 2000, when Zoe Crossland (now in the Anthropology Department at Columbia University) and I undertook preliminary investigations in the cave and its wadi with a view to renewed fieldwork and the testing of some of Garrod's key research propositions using modern techniques (Boyd and Crossland 2000). The Second Intifada (from 2000) resulted in further delays, until new fieldwork finally began in 2012 in collaboration with Professor Hamed Salem and a small team of undergraduate and graduate students from Birzeit University, the largest university in the Palestinian territories. I emphasize this point because in 2012 I was asked by security, on leaving Israel's Ben Gurion Airport, "Are there universities in the West Bank?"

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