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Thread: Anthropological findings on agricultural origin and dispersals into Europe

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    Post Anthropological findings on agricultural origin and dispersals into Europe

    by Carrie Olivia Adams

    Four papers that expand upon the record on the origins of agriculture will appear in a supplement, guest edited by O. Bar-Yosef, Director of the Stone Age Lab at the Peabody Museum of Harvard University, to the August/November 2004 issue of Current Anthropology. Taken as a set, they demonstrate the maturation of the study of agricultural origins through fine-grained regional analyses and new methodological techniques. Peter Rowley-Conwy in "How the West Was Lost: A Reconsideration of Agricultural Origins in Britain, Ireland, and Southern Scandinavia" shows that the data accumulated during the last 15 years in northwest Europe draws a different scenario from that commonly accepted at present. Rowley-Conwy asserts that rather than the gradual establishment of an agricultural subsistence economy in Ireland, Britain and southern Scandinavia, the process was a rapid "revolution," perhaps due to depletion of local resources or rapid environmental changes.

    Natalie D. Munro's paper, "Zooarchaeological Measures of Hunting Pressure and Occupation Intensity in the Natufian Implications for Agricultural Origins," presents plausible background for a sequence of events leading to intentional cultivation, by demonstrating the depletion of animal tissue resources during the Younger Dryas (13,000-11,600 cal BP) in the southern Levant.

    "Archaeobotanical Evidence for the Spread of Farming in the Eastern Mediterranean," by Sue Colledge, James Conolly, and Stephen Shennan, offers a fresh view by examining the seeds, not of cultivated plants, but of weeds, transported by early agricultural populations. They examine archaeobotanical assemblages from the Near East (including Greece), while recognizing the limitations of these datasets due to retrieval techniques and taphonomic issues, in order to define the "crop package" of Near Eastern early farmers. They discuss the evidence for a 'short or long gestation' period of the domestication process and view the archaeobotanical evidence from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A sites along the Levantine Corridor reflecting rapid cultivation of wild cereals.

    The article by Ron Pinhasi and Mark Pluciennik, "A Regional Biological Approach to the Spread of Farming in Europe: Anatolia, the Levant, Southeastern Europe, and the Mediterranean," provides another angle on population dispersals into Europe based on craniometric analyses of several Epi-Paleolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic samples from the Levant, Anatolia, and across Europe. Consistent with the proposal that Anatolian farmers moved relatively rapidly into Europe, the authors find clear differences between the late Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic Europeans and those of the early Neolithic age.
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    Post Re: Anthropological findings on agricultural origin and dispersals into Europe

    There is the view that most later hunter and gatherers, at least in Eurasia, already knew how to use plants, they just refused to adopt the sedentary and strenuous lifestyle with less energy.
    Only when certain environmental and demographic etc. changes occured, people already experimenting for a long time with agricultur fully changed their way of life.
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    Tracing the origin and spread of agriculture in Europe

    PLoS Biol. 2005 Dec;3(12):e410. Epub 2005 Nov 29.

    Tracing the origin and spread of agriculture in Europe.Pinhasi R, Fort J, Ammerman AJ.
    School of Human and Life Sciences, Whitelands College, Roehampton University, London, United Kingdom. r.pinhasi@roehampton.ac.uk

    The origins of early farming and its spread to Europe have been the subject of major interest for some time. The main controversy today is over the nature of the Neolithic transition in Europe: the extent to which the spread was, for the most part, indigenous and animated by imitation (cultural diffusion) or else was driven by an influx of dispersing populations (demic diffusion). We analyze the spatiotemporal dynamics of the transition using radiocarbon dates from 735 early Neolithic sites in Europe, the Near East, and Anatolia. We compute great-circle and shortest-path distances from each site to 35 possible agricultural centers of origin--ten are based on early sites in the Middle East and 25 are hypothetical locations set at 5 degrees latitude/longitude intervals. We perform a linear fit of distance versus age (and vice versa) for each center. For certain centers, high correlation coefficients (R > 0.8) are obtained. This implies that a steady rate or speed is a good overall approximation for this historical development. The average rate of the Neolithic spread over Europe is 0.6-1.3 km/y (95% confidence interval). This is consistent with the prediction of demic diffusion (0.6-1.1 km/y). An interpolative map of correlation coefficients, obtained by using shortest-path distances, shows that the origins of agriculture were most likely to have occurred in the northern Levantine/Mesopotamian area.
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