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22 July 2004
Early agriculture and dispersals into Europe

A set of four papers due to be published in August will demonstrate the progress made in the study of European agricultural origins through the use of detailed regional analyses and new methodologies.
     “How the West Was Lost: A reconsideration of Agricultural Origins in Britain, Ireland and Southern Scandinavia” [Peter Rowley-Conwy] interprets the accumulated data of the past 15 years to suggest that the establishment of agriculture resulted from a rapid revolution rather than the gradual development of agricultural subsistence economies. The process may have been due to the depletion of local resources or rapid environmental changes.
     “Zooarchaeological Measures of hunting Pressure and Occupation Intensity in the Natufian Implications for Agricultural Origins” [Natalie D. Munro] demonstrates the depletion of animal tissue in the southern Levant between 13,000 and 11,600 years ago, and relates this to beginning of intentional agriculture.
     “Archaeobotanical Evidence for the Spread of Farming in the Eastern Mediterranean” [Colledge, Conolly, Shennan] offers a new view based on a study of the seeds of weeds transported by early agriculturalists. While recognising the limitations of the datasets, the authors have examined archaeobotanical assemblages from Greece and the Near East to define the crop package of early farmers. The paper presents a view of the evidence from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A sites along the Levantine Corridor that suggests the rapid domestication of wild cereals.
     “A Regional Biological Approach to the Spread of Farming in Europe:Anatolia, the Levant, Southeastern Europe and the Mediterranean” [Pinhasi, Pluciennik] gives a further perspective on population dispersals into Europe based on craniometrics (head measurements). Epi-Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic samples show clear differences between late Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic Europeans and those of the early Neolithic. The findings are consistent with the proposal that Anatolian farmers moved into Europe relatively quickly.
     The four papers will be published in a supplement to the August/November 2004 issue of Current Anthropology, guest editor O. Bar-Yosef, Director of the Stone Age Lab at the Peabody Museum, Harvard University.

Source: EurekAlert (16 July 2004)

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