Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Anthropology (MA)

Degree Level





Jesse Casana

Committee Member

Kenneth L. Kvamme

Second Committee Member

Wesley D. Stoner


Social sciences, Earth sciences, Ancient economies, Geographical Information Systems, Late Roman Syria, Olive oil, Roman Syria, Trade


Despite the relative notoriety and miraculous level of preservation of the Dead Cities of Syria, fundamental questions of economic and subsistence viability remain unanswered. In the 1950s Georges Tchalenko theorized that these sites relied on intensive olive monoculture to mass export olive oil to urban centers. Later excavations discovered widespread cultivation of grains, fruit, and beans which directly contradicted Tchalenko’s assertion of sole reliance on oleoculture. However, innumerable olive presses in and around the Dead Cities still speak to a strong tradition of olive production. This thesis tests the logistical viability of olive oil transportation from the Dead Cities to the distant urban centers of Antioch and Apamea. Utilization of Raster GIS and remote sensing data allows for the reconstruction of the physical and Social landscapes of Late Roman Syria. Least Cost Analysis techniques produce a quantitative and testable model with which to simulate and evaluate the viability of long distance olive oil trade. This model not only provides a clearer understanding of the nature of long distance trade relationships in Syria, but also provides a model for investigating ancient economic systems elsewhere in the world. Furthermore, this project allows for the generation of new information regarding sites that are currently inaccessible to researchers.