Landscape History of Hadramawt wins Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) Book Award

Landscape History of Hadramawt: The Roots of Agriculture in Southern Arabia (RASA) Project 1998-2008published in 2020 by the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press, has been awarded the 2022 Anna Marguerite McCann Award for Fieldwork Reports presented by the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA). The book was edited by Joy McCorriston, Professor of Anthropology at The Ohio State University and Michael Harrower, Associate Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Johns Hopkins University. This final report of survey and excavations by the RASA project addresses the development of food production and human landscapes in Holocene Yemen.

The AIA award notes, Landscape History of Hadramawt is the publication of an expansive project by an American-Yemeni team working with local collaborators in an area that is now under threat an inaccessible to archaeologists. The fieldwork combined extensive and intensive survey, test excavations, and architectural documentation with paleoecology, geomorphology, and hydrology studies to examine research questions related to the migration of early human populations and the spread of Neolithic packages in southern Arabia. This volume’s conclusions are important not only for the archaeology of the region, but equally for its arguments about the diffusion of early domesticates and as a work of climate history that focuses on water resources to understand landscape change.

The publication celebrated here admirably demonstrates how field research, archaeoscience, and theoretical approaches can be integrated and brought to bear on topics of enduring interest for those who study the human past. The close relationship is reflected in its chronological organization which incorporates discussion of the full spectrum of evidence and argumentation for each period. Every chapter presents a wealth of well-studied, clearly described, and well-illustrated primary data that are framed to address the project’s primary research questions. This pattern is also visible in the impressive section on the use of Bayesian statistics to analyze the C14 and OSL data from sites and geological deposits in order to develop an absolute chronology for the Holocene in southern Arabia. In addition, the committee praised the reflexive discussions of the social and ethnographic context of the project itself that were woven into the text.

This work presents a vast amount of archaeological data and excels as a model of conscientious, multidisciplinary archaeological publication of the highest standard. While its conclusions are central for research on early agriculture in Arabia and society in the region’s early pastoral landscapes, they are very likely to contribute to research well beyond the AIA’s traditional core. We further laud McCorriston and Harrower for bringing this project to publication in a timely manner.

In short, Landscape History of Hadramawt is an exemplary volume that embodies the values and principles of archaeological publication and is deeply deserving of the AIA’s second Anna Marguerite McCann Award for Fieldwork Reports.