The evolution of Early Neolithic farming from SW Asian origins to NW Europeans limits

Sue Colledge, James Conolly and Stephen Shennan

The eight founder crops of Neolithic agriculture (emmer, einkorn, hulled
barely, pea, lentil, bitter vetch, chick pea, and flax), evolved in southwest
Asia and the earliest farming communities are here dated to ca. 10000 calBC.

From southwest Asia farming spread into southeast Europe by ca. 7000 calBC and reached northwest Europe ca. 3000 years later. While the social and economic changes associated with the transition to food production are relatively well-documented, the variables influencing the evolution of farming
(i.e. modifications in the types of crops, associated weeds, and cultivation and processing technologies) during its early history remain poorly understood.

We have documented and investigated these modifications and here we show that the changes between central European agriculture and its ancestral form in southeast Europe and southwest Asia are best explained by the form of cultural inheritance system that inhibited the diffusion of new or alternative crop types during the earliest phases of the spread of farming in Europe, and subsequently biased against innovation with alternative species until later in Neolithic period.