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Archaeobotanical Evidence for the Spread of Farming in the Eastern Mediterranean, Conolly and Shennan 2004

Archaeobotanical Evidence for the Spread of Farming in the Eastern Mediterranean, Conolly and Shennan 2004

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07/04/2013

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S
35
Current Anthropology
Volume
45
, Supplement, August–October
2004
2004
by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. All rights reserved
0011-3204/2004/4504S4-0002$10.00
ArchaeobotanicalEvidence for theSpread of Farming inthe EasternMediterranean
1
by Sue Colledge, James Conolly,and Stephen Shennan
A major topic of debate in Old World prehistory is the relativeimportance of population movement versus cultural diffusion inexplaining the spread of agriculture into and across Europe fol-lowing its inception in southwestern Asia. An important set ofdata that has surprisingly been largely absent from this debate isthe preserved crops and associated weeds of the earliest farmers.An analysis of archaeobotanical data from
40
aceramic Neolithicsites in southwestern Asia and southeastern Europe shows thatthere are vegetational signatures that characterize the differentgeographical regions occupied by the Early Neolithic farmers. Onthis basis it is argued that the compositional similarities of thecrop package between the Levantine core, Cyprus, and Greeceare indicative of both the routes of migration of early farminggroups and the early agricultural practices of Europe’s firstfarmers.
sue colledge
is a postdoctoral fellow of the Institute of Ar-chaeology, University College London. Born in
1955
, she was ed-ucated at the University of Birmingham (B.Sc.,
1976
) and theUniversity of Sheffield (Ph.D.,
1994
). Among her publications is
Plant Exploitation on Epipalaeolithic and Early Neolithic Sites in the Levant
(British Archaeological Reports International Series
986
).
james conolly
is Lecturer in Archaeology at the Insti-tute of Archaeology, University College London (
31
34
GordonSquare, London WC
1
H
0
PY, U.K. [j.conolly@ucl.ac.uk]). He wasborn in
1968
and received his B.A. from the University of To-ronto in
1990
and his Ph.D. from University College London in
1997
. He is coauthor, with M. Lake, of
Geographical InformationSystems
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, in press).
s tephen shennan
is Professor of Theoretical Archaeology andDeputy Director of the Institute of Archaeology, University Col-lege London. Born in
1949
, he was educated at Cambridge Uni-versity (B.A.,
1971
; Ph.D.,
1977
). His most recent book is
Genes,Memes, and Human History: Darwinian Archaeology and Cul-tural Evolution
(London: Thames and Hudson,
2002
). The pre-sent paper was submitted
3 iv 03
and accepted
22 i 04
.[Supplementary materials appear in the electronic edition of thisissue on the journal’s web page (http://www.journals.uchicago/edu/CA/home.html).]
1.
We thank Michael Charles, Andrew Garrard, David Harris, andfive anonymous reviewers who read and commented on drafts ofthis paper. We are also grateful to the staff and students of theInstitute of Archaeology, University College London, who contrib-
Explainingthetransitiontoagricultureisalong-standingand central problem in European prehistoricarchaeologythat traces its history to Gordon Childe’s (
1929
) diffu-sionist model. In
1965
Grahame Clark mapped the ra-diocarbon dates associated with the earliest Neolithicsites and demonstrated a cline oriented roughly north-west to southeast across Europe to the Levant, confirm-ing Childe’s earlier proposals regarding the primacy ofagriculture in the eastern Mediterranean. Less than adecade later Ammerman and Cavalli-Sforza (
1973
) in-vestigated the processes underlying the expansion offarming and developed a spatial model based in part onFisher’s (
1937
) wave of advance for advantageous genes,proposing a demic expansion of farmers of ca.
1
km peryear from an (assumed) origin in Jericho. Since then ithas been shown that there are regions that deviate sub-stantiallyfromthistrendsurface,notablyalongtheMed-iterranean coasts, where movement rates are faster thanpredicted, and the Iberian peninsula, which experiencesmuch slower rates of Neolithization (Cavalli-Sforza
1996
), but the
1
km/year approximation has remained agood generalization of the expansion of farming com-munities across the continent. Debate continues, how-ever,astowhetherNeolithizationwascausedbyamove-ment of people or one of ideas. Recent sophisticatedquantitative analysis of the radiocarbon record hasshown that the relationship between the decline of in-digenousMesolithicpopulationsandthefirstappearanceof farming communities was complex (Gkiasta et al.
2003
). Population diffusion (e.g., through intermarriagebetween hunter-gatherer and early farming groups) andcultural diffusion independent of population movementhave been shown to give equally convincing explana-tions of the spatial and temporal patterns of Neolithicexpansion (Richards
2003
, Bentley et al.
2002
, Nowak
2001
, Price et al.
2001
, Price
2000
).Thefragileconsensusis that a complex mixture of demic expansion and cul-tural diffusion was responsible for the origin and spreadof the Neolithic into Europe from its first appearance insouthwestern Asia, although debate continues overwhich of these processes was dominant in differentregions of the continent (see, in particular, Price
2000
).From the perspective of European archaeologists it isthe first Neolithic communities in Greece—from about
7000
BC
2
—that mark the beginning of the process ofEuropean “Neolithization.” However, this date is nearlythree millennia after the emergence of agricultural com-munitiesintheeasternMediterranean,andNearEasternarchaeologists have shown that an expansion of earlyfarming groups throughout the Levant and into Cyprusand central Anatolia occurs well before the Neolithicfirst appears in southeastern Europe (Cauvin
1989
, Pel-tenburg et al.
2001
, O¨zdog˘an
1997
). With few exceptions(e.g., Perle`s
2001
), accounts of European Neolithizationpay little more than lip-service to the substantial re-search that has been undertaken on the spread of early
uted to discussions after we presented this paper at a research sem-inar in January
2003
.
2.
All dates BC are calibrated.
 
S
36
F
current anthropology
Volume
45
, Supplement, August–October
2004
Fig. 1.
Eastern Mediterranean aceramic Neolithic sites referred to in the text. (Locations
25
,
35
, and
37
refer totwo sites each.)
farmingpracticesintheeasternMediterranean,and,con-versely, Near Eastern archaeologists rarely look beyondAnatolia for further evidence to address the centralques-tion of why farming spread and how farming practiceswere adapted to European temperate environments. It isin this regard that we draw attention to the fact thatalthoughthefundamentalelementsoftheEuropeancroppackage are derived from founder species that evolvedin southwestern Asia, archaeobotanical data have neverbeen referred to in any models of Neolithization in aninterregional comparative context.As we demonstrate here, when examined in a spatialand chronological framework the archaeobotanical rec-ordprovidesinsightintothetransitiontofarmingatbothlocal and regional levels. As well as providing informa-tionontheuseofdomesticcrops,theaccompanyingwildspecies, and, more important, associated weeds, the datacan be used to construct a comprehensive picture of theevolution and adaptation of agricultural systems overspace and time. In this paper we present the results ofcomparative analyses of archaeobotanical data from
40
aceramic Neolithic sites fromtheeasternMediterranean(fig.
1
). The results of the analysis clarify regional dif-ferencesincropcompositionandrefinethechronologies,sources, and routes of dispersal of the earliest domesticcropsfromsouthwesternAsiaintosoutheasternEurope.
3
Integrating Archaeobotanical Data intoModels of the Spread of Farming
Despite concentrated research into the archaeobotanicalfoundations of early agriculture in localized areas of theLevant and southeastern Anatolia, there has never beena systematic, pan-regional comparative analysis of ar-chaeobotanical assemblages of key sites from south-western Asia and Europe. To address this problem, wehave assembled a relational database containing recordsof the plant taxa represented on pre- and early Neolithicsites, linked to a database of
14
C dates for sites in Europe
4
and to additional dates for the southwestern Asian sites.
3.
This paper presents initial findings arising from a larger project(
The Origin and Spread of Neolithic Plant Economies in the NearEast and Europe
) funded by the Arts and Humanities ResearchBoard (U.K.), directed by Stephen Shennan and James Conolly ofthe Institute of Archaeology, University College London, in col-laboration with James Steels of the UniversityofSouthampton.SueColledge is the project’s research fellow.
4.
http://ads.ahds.ac.uk/catalogue/collections/blurbs/
283
.cfm.
 
colledge, conolly, and shennan
Archaeobotany and the Spread of Farming
F
S
37Fig. 2.
The data model. Primary fields are denoted by asterisks; arrows show one-to-many relationships.
At the time of writing, the database contains detailedarchaeobotanical information from
166
sites comprisinga total of
243
phases with ca.
1
,
000
associated radiocar-bon dates and covering an area from southern Iran tonorthwestern Europe (including Bulgaria, Romania,Hungary, the former Yugoslavia, Italy, the Czech Re-public, Austria, France, and Germany as well as coun-tries in the eastern Mediterranean). The time span rep-resented by these sites is ca.
15
,
500
years, between ca.
21
,
000
bp and ca.
5
,
500
bp. The data model is shown infigure
2
.Each taxon (e.g., species) that has been identified bythe archaeobotanists responsible for the different sitesrepresents a separate record in the archaeobotanical datatable, and to date
6
,
121
entries have been made (our dataconsist of records of remains that have been preservedby charring, with very few mineralized specimens oridentifications made from impressions included). Num-bers and ubiquity scores (i.e., number of samples inwhich a taxon occurs as a percentage of the totalnumberof samples) relate to the representation of these taxa ac-cordingtomajorculturalphasesratherthantoindividualsamples. The records include references to a total of
719
taxa that have been listed in the published reports (in-cluding wild and domestic cereals and pulses, fruits, oilplants, and many wild or weed species). Archaeobotan-ical reports have been critically reviewed prior to enter-ing information in the database; notes made by the au-thors have been added to accompany the records,providing details of the identification criteria they used,for example, to distinguish between the wild progenitorsand domestic species. Archaeological literature relatingto the dating and phasing at the sites has also been re-ferred to, and this has thrown light on inaccuracies inpublished articles, most significantly with respect to thecontextual or chronological association of early finds ofdomestic crops (e.g., Jericho [see below and Colledge
2004
]).Once complete, this publicly available database willbe an invaluable resource for the study of the origins ofand the transition to agriculture in southwestern Asiaand Europe. We demonstrateitsrelevanceandvaluehereand show how multivariate analysis of archaeobotanicaldata can contribute to our understanding of the spreadof the Neolithic crop package.
The Origins of Farming in Southwestern Asiaand Southeastern Europe: Spatial andTemporal Dynamics
The first evidence of domestic crops
5
occurs in south-western Asia in the first centuries of the tenth millen-nium BC, probably at the beginning of the climatic ame-lioration following the Younger Dryas stadial. Theearliest domestic cereals were emmer (
Triticum dicoc-cum
), einkorn (
Triticum monococcum
), and hulled bar-ley (
Hordeum vulgare
, hereafter referred to as
Hordeumsativum
). Together with flax (
Linum usitatissimum
)andfour pulses—lentil (
Lens culinaris
),pea (
Pisumsativum
),bitter vetch (
Vicia ervilia
), and chick pea (
Cicer arie-tinum
)—they constitute the “founder crops” of Neo-lithic agriculture (Zohary
1996
). This assemblage of spe-
5.
We refer here only to the “founder crops” whichformedthebasisof Neolithic agriculture, not including, therefore, the early finds ofdomestic rye from Epipalaeolithic contexts at Abu Hureyra (Hill-man
2000
:
379
84
).

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