Arid regions in the Old World Dry Belt are assumed to be marginal regions, not only in ecological terms, but also economically and socially. Such views in geography, archaeology, and sociology are—despite the real limits of living in arid landscapes—partly influenced by derivates of Central Place Theory as developed for European medieval city-based economies. For other historical time periods and regions, this narrative inhibited socio-economic research with data-based and non-biased approaches. This paper aims, in two arid Graeco-Roman landscapes, to show how far approaches from landscape archaeology and social network analysis combined with the “small world phenomenon” can help to overcome a dichotomic view on core places and their areas, and understand settlement patterns and economic practices in a nuanced way. With Hauran in Southern Syria and Marmarica in NW-Egypt, I revise the concept of marginality, and look for qualitatively and spatially defined relationships between settlements, for both resource management and social organization. This ‘un-central’ perspective on arid landscapes provides insights on how arid regions functioned economically and socially due to a particular spatial concept and connection with their (scarce) resources, mainly water.
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