2.5.1.5 Look like?

 0 Contents 2 Background 2.5 Societal 2.5.1 Europe

Copper 2.5.1.7

2.5.1.6 First Farmers

Introduction

Pre-Pottery Neolithic B in the Fertile Crescent c.7,500 BC. Click to enlarge in pop-up window.

The improving climate around 11,000 years ago tempted some people into a more settled lifestyle. (For more detail see The Near Eastern Neolithic.) Plenty of rain and river water made for lush vegetation in the area where the Levant meets Anatolia. Here grew the wild cereals and legumes that became the cultivated staples of European diet. Here were wild herds of sheep, goats, cattle and pigs that could be domesticated.1M. Zeder, Domestication and early agriculture in the Mediterranean Basin: Origins, diffusion, and impact, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, vol. 105 (2008), no. 33, pp.11597-11604 dates the domestication of animals 1,000 years earlier than previous estimates; R. Pinhasi, J. Fort and J. Ammerman, Tracing the origin and spread of agriculture in Europe, PLoS Biology, vol. 3, no. 12: e410 (2005), pp. 2220-28; I. Kuijt and B. Finlayson, Evidence for food storage and predomestication granaries 11,000 years ago in the Jordan Valley, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, vol. 106, no. 27 (July 7, 2009), pp. 10966-10970. Here too hunter-gatherers had congregated in sufficient numbers to build the first megalithic monument.2S. Scham, The World's First Temple,Archaeology, vol. 61, no. 6, (November/December 2008). Population density seems to be one of the crucial triggers of technological change. When our ancestors roamed the earth in tiny bands, the pace of change was glacially slow. A larger community gives greater scope for invention. It can afford to support the occasional inventive soul through the trial-and-error process of acquiring new skills. (And the more people it has, the better chance there is of an inventive type cropping up.) Also the larger the communicating group, the greater the exchange of ideas, and the less chance of innovations being lost.3A. Powell et al., Late Pleistocene Demography and the appearance of modern human behavior, Science, vol. 324. no.5932 (5 June 2009), pp. 1298-1301; P. J. Richerson, R. Boyd, and R. L. Bettinger, Cultural Innovations and Demographic Change, Human Biology, vol. 81 (April–June 2009), nos. 2–3, pp. 211-235; S. Shennan, Demography and cultural innovation: a model and its implications for the emergence of modern human culture, Cambridge Archaeological Journal, v ol. 11, no. 1 (2001) , pp. 5-16. Control of food sources has an obvious appeal. Farming supports many more people per acre than hunter-gathering.4P. Bellwood, First Farmers: The origin of agricultural societies(2005), pp. 12-20. It was the beginning of a population explosion, which would lead to further innovations. The shift to domesticating animals and cultivating crops led to the first civilizations. It was a profound change in human lifestyle.

Two routes

The spread of farming into Europe, adapted from Barry Cunliffe (2008) and Peter Bellwood (2005). Click to enlarge in pop-up window.

Melinda Zeder synthesised the evidence that farming was carried across the Mediterranean in a staggered series of seaborne hops from one colony to the next, then spread into the interior gradually, by integration with Mesolithic cultures.5M. Zeder, Domestication and early agriculture in the Mediterranean Basin: Origins, diffusion, and impact, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, vol.105 (2008), no. 33, pp. 11597-11604. That route is marked by Impressed Ware, which seems to have spread direct from the Near East to Epirus and Corfu, and from there along the coasts of the Adriatic, followed by island-hopping and coastal routes west along the Mediterranean and through the Straights of Gibraltar to the Atlantic coast. It also appears on the coast of Tunisia and the northern tip of Morocco.6E. Guldogan, Mezraa-Teleilat settlement Impressed Ware and transferring Neolithic life style?, in Paolo Matthiae et al. (eds.), Proceedings of the 6th International Congress of the Archaeology, vol. 3 (2010), pp. 375-380; B. Cunliffe, Europe Between the Oceans (2008), pp.115-6.

Another Neolithic culture known from its pottery as LinearBandKeramik (LBK) spread from the Balkans into central Europe.7P. Bellwood, First Farmers: The origins of Agricultural Societies(2005), pp. 68-84 and figure 4.1. Domesticated plant dispersal and DNA evidence from cattle supports the same two routes: see F. Coward et al., The spread of Neolithic plant economies from the Near East to Northwest Europe: a phylogenetic analysis, Journal of Archaeological Science, vol. 35, no. 1 (2008), pp. 42-56; J.E. Decker et al., Resolving the evolution of extant and extinct ruminants with high-throughput phylogenomics, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA vol. 106, no. 43 (27 October 2009). The LBK too was spread initially by colonists. An isotope study of an early LBK cemetery in Germany showed that one-third of the buried were immigrants. Others might be their locally-born descendants.8T. Douglas Price et al., Dasbandkeramische Gräberfeld vomViesenhäuser Hof bei Stuttgart-Mühlhausen:Neue Untersuchungsergebnisse zum Migrationsverhalten im frühen Neolithikum, in D.T. Funda (ed.),Fundberichte aus Baden-Württemberg (2003), pp.23-58. Incomers of the LBK kept a distance between their settlements and forager zones, perhaps hoping to avoid clashes.9B. Vanmontfort, Forager–farmer connections in an‘unoccupied’ land: First contact on the western edge of LBK territory, Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, vol. 27 (2008), pp.149–160.

Spread by ideas or people?

Between 9,000 and 6,000 years ago farming transformed the way of life of most Europeans. How did it spread across Europe? The simple explanation would be that as populations rose, farming folk migrated west together with their stock of seeds and animals in search of new land. Certainly sheep and goats were introduced into Europe, which had previously lacked them, together with Near Eastern domesticated pigs, cattle and the cultivated strains of cereals.10G. Larson et al, Ancient DNA, pig domestication, and the spread of the Neolithic into Europe, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, vol. 104, no. 39 (Sep 2007), pp. 15276-15281; R.Bollongino et al., Y-SNPs do not indicate hybridisation between European aurochs and domestic cattle, PLoS ONE, vol. 3, no. 10 (2008): e3418. Yet these could have been acquired by European hunter-gatherers through barter. Theories have swung from one extreme to another as fashions in archaeological explanation changed. In the first half of the 20th century migrationwas assumed. From the 1960s a vision of cultural diffusion of ideas developed. Anti-migrationism is on the wane in the 21st century, and not simply because the genetic evidence is compelling that farming was brought by farmers to most of Europe. 11P. Rowley Conwy, How the West was lost: a reconsideration of agricultural origins in Britain, Ireland, and Southern Scandinavia, Current Anthropology,vol. 45 (2004), no. s4 outlines the ideological battle and the amassing archaeological evidence in favour of demic diffusion of farming.

Demic diffusion of agriculture was first proposed on genetic grounds in a seminal study in 1971 by Albert Ammerman and Luca Cavalli-Sforza. Using the distribution of what are now known as classical markers, such as alleles for blood groups and antigens, they showed a genetic cline across Europe friom south-east to north-west. That was strikingly similar to the advance of farming judged by radiocarbon dates from 53 early Neolithic sites. They deduced a steady wave of advance of farmers from Anatolia at an average 1 km per year.12A. J. Ammerman and L. L. Cavalli-Sforza, Measuring the rate of spread of early farming in Europe, Man, New Series vol. 6, no. 4. (December 1971), pp. 674–688. The idea of migration was out of tune with the times, but the assumption of a largely land-based spread into Europe via Anatolia went unchallenged until recent years. Ammerman co-authored a revision of this model in 2005 using radiocarbon dates from 735 early Neolithic sites. This changed the likely point of origin to the northern Levantine/Mesopotamian area.13R. Pinhasi, J. Fort, A. J. Ammerman, Tracing the Origin and Spread of Agriculture in Europe, PLoS Biology, vol. 3, no. 12 (2005): e436. Analysis of the spread of early Neolithic cultivars also shows an island-hopping trail from the Levant.14F. Coward, S. Shennan, S.Colledge, J. Conolly and M. Collard, The spread of Neolithic plant economiesfrom the Near East to Northwest Europe: a phylogenetic analysis, Journal of Archaeological Science, vol. 35, no. 1 (2008), pp.42-56. One group of islands was significantly by-passed. The Cyclades form stepping stones across the Agean between Anatolia and the Greek mainland. The fact that they were not continuously settled until the Late Neolithic is further evidence against the primary spread of agriculture from Anatolia to Europe, though the Bosporus later became a route for Anatolian farmers entering the Danube Basin.15C. Perles, An alternate (and old-fashioned) view of Neolithisation in Greece, Documenta Prehistorica vol. 30 (2003), pp. 99-113; B. Cunliffe, Europe Between the Oceans (2008), pp. 174-5; M. Ozdogan, Westward expansion of the Neolithic way of life: sorting the Neolithic package into distinct packages, in Paolo Matthiae et al. (eds.),Proceedings of the 6th International Congress of the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East, vol.1 (2010). pp. 883-893.

The idea of a steady wave of advance has also required revision. More recent analyses reveal a punctuated progress, with long halts in places and periodic leaps across geographical or climatic barriers.16J.-P. Bocquet-Appel et al., Detection of diffusion and contact zones of early farming in Europe from the space-time distribution of 14C dates, Journal of Archaeological Science, vol. 36 (2009), pp. 807–820; P. Rowley-Conwy, Westward Ho! The Spread of Agriculture from Central Europe to the Atlantic, Current Anthropology, vol. 52, no. S4 (October 2011).

New techniques have made migration easier to detect in the archaeological record. Marina Gkiasta and colleagues made use of a database of radiocarbon dates from Mesolithic and Neolithic sites to map the transition to agriculture in Europe. Where the appearance of an early Neolithic population was relatively abrupt it is likely to reflect new arrivals. In such areas hunter-gatherer sites tend either to disappear well ahead of the arrival of farming, or to continue well after it at a fairly constant rate, showing two lifestyles continuing in parallel. The expected pattern where hunter-gatherers adopt agriculture is for the foraging sites to tail off gradually and overlap considerably with those of early farming. They cautiously supported the idea of migration into Greece, former Yugoslavia, Italy, Germany and Belgium, while leaning towards adoption of agriculture by local people in France and the British Isles.17M. Gkiasta, T. Russell, S. Shennan and J. Steele, Neolithictransition in Europe: the radiocarbon record revisited,Antiquity,vol. 77, no. 295 (2003), pp. 45–62. This now looks over-generous to the concept of cultural diffusion. Subsequent analyses of the radiocarbon dates for Britain have come down strongly in favour of an introduction of farming by migrants.18M.Collard, K. Edinborough, S. Shennan, M. G. Thomas, Radiocarbon evidence indicates that migrants introduced farming to Britain,Journal of Archaeological Science, vol. 37, no. 4, (April 2010), pp. 866-870; P. Rowley-Conwy, WestwardHo! The Spread of Agriculture from Central Europe to the Atlantic, Current Anthropology, vol. 52, no. S4 (October 2011). Online before print.; A Bayliss, F. Healy and A. Whittle,Gathering Time: Dating the Early Neolithic Enclosures of Southern Britainand Ireland (2011).

Yet we do not need to reject altogether the mosaic model of the spread of farming. Anthropologists support it. Comparing the crania of early European farmers with those of Mesolithic Europeans points to a new people arriving in Southeastern and Central Europe from the Near East,19R. Pinhasi and N. von Cramon-Taubadel, Craniometric Data Supports Demic Diffusion Model for the Spread of Agriculture into Europe,PLoS ONE, vol. 4, no 8 (2009): e6747. which is supported by genetic evidence (see the next section). Similar comparisons on the forested fringes of Europe - the European steppe and the Baltic - show that some hunter-gatherers there adopted the new ideas.20N. von Cramon-Taubadel and R. Pinhasi, Craniometric data support a mosaic model of demic and cultural Neolithic diffusion to outlying regions of Europe, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (published online before print February 23, 2011). The number of Mesolithic hunters who adapted to the new way of life may be low, but in a twist of fate, their descendants were to have an impact on Europe's population millennia later.

Genetic evidence

The most convincing evidence that farming was spread by farmers comes from those farmers themselves. Their remains have been enlightening. Ancient mtDNA from the LBK showed without doubt that the first farmers of Central Europe were not descended from local foragers. The foragers overwhelmingly carried haplogroups mtDNA U4 and U5. The first farmers brought a completely new range of mtDNA haplogroups into Central Europe. T and K have been found in the DNA of early farmers in both the Levant and Europe. Haplogroup J also appeared in LBK farmers,21W. Haak et al, Ancient DNA from the First European Farmers in 7500-Year-Old Neolithic Sites, Science, vol. 310, no. 5750 (2005), pp. 1016-1018; B. Bramanti et al, Genetic discontinuity between local hunter-gatherers and Central Europe’s first farmers,Science, (online September 3, 2009); E. Fernández, et al., Mitochondrial DNA genetic relationships at the ancient Neolithic site of Tell Halula, Forensic Science International: Genetics Supplement Series, vol.1, no. 1 (2008), pp. 271–273; see also H. Malmstromet al, Ancient DNA reveals lack of continuity between Neolithic hunter-gatherers and contemporary Scandinavians,Current Biology, vol. 19 (Nov 2009), pp.1–5. which came as no surprise. Both the frequency and variance of mtDNA J are highest in the Near East.22P. Serk, Human Mitochondrial DNA Haplogroup J in Europe and Near East, Thesis, Tartu 2004. More specifically T1, T2, J1a and K2a all show greater genetic diversity in the Near East.23C.R. Gignoux, B. M. Henn and J. L. Mountain, Rapid, global demographic expansions after the origins of agriculture, PNAS, online 28 March 2011 before print.

Only three LBK individuals have yielded Y-DNA. Two were ascribed to haplogroup: F* (M89), now extremely rare. This is so ancient a haplogroup that it could have arrived in Europe long before farming. But the third Y-DNA was G2a3 (L30/S126). G is primarily a Near Eastern and Mediterranean haplogroup today. G2a is found at highest density in the Causasus, which was populated overwhelmingly from the Near East, and so G is a likely Neolithic marker.24W. Haak et al., Ancient DNA from European Early Neolithic farmers reveals their Near Eastern affinities, PloS Biology, vol. 8, no. 11 (November 2010): e1000536; O. Balanovsky et al., Parallel Evolution of Genes and Languages in the Caucasus Region,Molecular Biology and Evolution, published online ahead of print 13 May 2011. Support for that conclusion comes from the 20 examples of G2a found in 22 males among the burials in the Cave of Treilles in Aveyron, in the South of France. The Treilles culture of c. 3000 BC is the very last phase of the Neolithic in the region before the arrival of copper-workers and the Bell Beaker culture. The concentration of G2a among the cave burials suggests that they came from a closely related group. Their haplotypes place them on a Mediterranean branch of G2a, different from the G2a in the Caucasus. The two lines presumably had a common ancestor in the Near East. The other two males in the cave burials carried I2a.25M. Lacan et al, Ancient DNA reveals male diffusion through the Neolithic Mediterranean route, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, online before print May 31, 2011.I2a was probably assimilated by farmersin south-east Europe or Anatolia and moved westward with Impressed Ware. Its offspring I2a1a-M26 represents about 40% of the Y-DNA in Sardinia and is also found along the Mediterranean coasts of Italy and Iberia. (See The Story of I.)

The distribution of Y-DNA J2

Other probable Neolithic markers are Y-DNA J and E. Roy King and Peter Underhill found that the present-day distribution of haplogroup J2-M172 correlates with the presence of Neolithic painted pottery and figurines around the eastern Mediterranean as far as southern Italy,26R. J. King and P. Underhill, Congruent distribution of Neolithic painted pottery and ceramic figurines withY-chromosome lineages, Antiquity, vol. 76, no. 293 (2002), pp.707–714; R. King, The origin of farming: a view from the Y-Chromosome,Spittoon (online 25 July 2008).while others have noted the contribution of J2b2 in the Balkans, Greece and Italy, and subclades of E in the Mediterranean and Balkans. 27V. Battaglia et al, Y-chromosomal evidence of the cultural diffusion of agriculture in southeast Europe, European Journal of Human Genetics, vol. 17, no 6. (June 2009), pp. 820-30; F. di Giacomo et al, Y chromosomal haplogroup J as a signature of the post-neolithic colonization of Europe, Human Genetics, vol. 11, no. 5 (2004), pp. 357-71; O. Semino et al., Origin, diffusion, and differentiation of Y-Chromosome haplogroups E and J: inferences on the Neolithization of Europe and later migratory events in the Mediterranean area, American Journal of Human Genetics, vol. 74 (2004), pp. 1023–1034.

Fulvio Cruciani and colleagues found the Y-DNA subhaplogroup E-V12* at its highest concentrations today in Southern Egyptians, but they suggest that it originated in or near northern Egypt, and was involved in migrations across the Mediterranean from Africa. It seems more likely that E-V12* was involved in Neolithic movements from the Near East. The distribution is a good match for Impressed Ware, which appears to have spread from the Levant direct to both northern and southern coasts of the western Mediterranean. This and closely related subclades

Are observed almost exclusively in Mediterranean Europe, as opposed to central and eastern Europe. Also, among the Mediterranean populations, they are more common in Iberia and south-central Europe than in the Balkans.28Cruciani et al, Tracing Past Human Male Movements in Northern/Eastern Africa and Western Eurasia: New Clues from Y-Chromosomal Haplogroups E-M78 and J-M12, Molecular Biology and Evolution, vol. 24, no. 6 (2007), pp. 1300-1311.

Arredi and her colleagues found a striking cline of Y-chromosomal differentiation oriented east-west in Europe. The dominant haplogroup is R1b1b2 (R-M269), which they suggest entered Europe during the Neolithic.29B. Arredi, E.S. Poloni and C.Tyler-Smith, The peopling of Europe, in M. Crawford (ed.),Anthropological Genetics: Theory, methods and applications (2007), pp. 391-95. They have been supported by later studies in more detail, while the 1000 Genomes project notesA striking pattern indicative of a recent rapid expansion specific to haplogroup R1b... consistent with the postulated Neolithic origin of this haplogroup in Europe.30P. Balaresque et al., A predominantly Neolithic origin for European paternal lineages, PLoS Biology, vol. 8, no. 1 (2010); N.M Myres et al., A major Y-chromosome haplogroup R1b Holocene era founder effect in Central and Western Europe,European Journal of Human Genetics, vol. 19, no. 1 (January 2011), pp. 95-101; The 1000 Genomes Project Consortium, A map of human genome variation from population-scale sequencing, Nature, vol. 467 (28 October 2010), pp. 1061–1073 (1064-5). Yet eastern origin combined with recent rapid expansion better fits the Copper Age, in which the new technology spread faster than farming. As Per Sjödin and Olivier François point out, whether the spread of R1b1b2 (R-M269) can be connected to the spread of farming depends on which mutation rate is used. If the evolutionary mutation rate is favoured, R1b1b2 could be linked to the Neolithic, but germline mutation rates point to a more recent expansion.31P. Sjödin and O. François, Wave-of-Advance Models of the Diffusion of the Y Chromosome Haplogroup R1b1b2 in Europe, PLoS ONE, vol. 6, no. 6 (2011 ), e21592. See the Genetic debate: dating for discussion of mutation rates.

Climate pressure triggers the second wave

Climate zones c. 6200 BC. Click to enlarge in new window

A climatic crisis struck farmers around 6200 BC. A huge North American post-glacial lake burst into the Atlantic, disturbing the climate across the Northern Hemisphere. The result was hyper-arid conditions in southern Iberia, most of the Italian peninsula, North Africa and the southern Near East. North of that belt were bands of marked seasonal swings, sandwiching between them a cool and wet belt from the Atlantic to Anatolia. This event had far-reaching consequences. It seems to have hit foragers as well as farmers. Across the northern Mediterranean and along the Danube, many forager sites were abandoned, to be later occupied by farmers. Meanwhile farmers abandoned Cyprus and a number of sites in the Near Eastern cradle of farming, while new farming sites suddenly appeared in North West Anatolia, Thrace, Macedonia, Thessaly and Bulgaria, which offered better conditions for rain-fed cereal farming.32J.-F. Berger and J. Guilaine, The 8200 cal BP abrupt environmental change and the Neolithic transition: A Mediterranean perspective, Quaternary International, vol. 200, nos. 1-2 (1 May 2009), pp. 31-49; D. C. Barber et al., Forcing of the cold event of 8,200 years ago by catastrophic drainage of Laurentide lakes,Nature, no. 400 (22 July 1999), pp. 344-348.Social upheaval on this scale is seldom stress-free. We can imagine starvation, fighting over scarce resources, and the breakdown of the familiar social order. In the Lake District of Anatolia, within the central western Taurus Mountains, four sites show fortifications being built and large-scale destruction by fire, coinciding with the crisis. Unburied victims of the fires are the best evidence that these settlements were razed by enemies. In all four cases there is a break in occupation after these signs of strife. It is a similar, though less clear-cut, picture in eastern Anatolia at Mersin-Yumuktepe and at Tell Sabi Abyad in northern Syria.33L. Clare et al., Warfare in Late Neolithic\Early Chalcolithic Pisidia, southwestern Turkey: Climate induced social unrest in the late 7th millennium cal BC, Documenta Praehistorica, vol. 35 (2008), pp. 65-92; P.M.M.G. Akkermans, et al., Weathering climate change in the Near East: dating and Neolithic adaptations 8200 years ago, Antiquityy, vol. 84, no. 325 (September 2010) prefer to interpret the marked cultural change at Tell Sabi Abyad coinciding with the crisis as a cultural adaptation, rather than change of population.

The earliest farmers on Cyprus, Crete and the Greek mainland had made no pottery. Their culture was derived from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic of the Near East. The new wave of farmers after 6200 BC carried potterywith them. Red, burnished, monochrome pottery is found in Western Anatolia, the Balkans, Macedonia, and Thessaly at the earliest Neolithic sites, though potters included painted patterns in their repertoire within one or two generations.34B. Weninger et al., Climate forcing due to the 8200 cal BP event observed at Early Neolithic sites in the eastern Mediterranean, Quaternary Research, vol. 66 (2006), pp. 401–420. Pottery painted with geometric designs appeared after 6200 at Tell Sabi Abyad too - marking the start of the Halaf Culture.35P.M.M.G. Akkermans, et al.,Weathering climate change in the Near East: dating and Neolithic adaptations 8200 years ago, Antiquity, vol. 84, no. 325 (September 2010).

Another new feature was dairy farming. There was a little milk-use at earlier Neolithic sites. The first sign of intensive milking comes from the lush pastures around the Sea of Marmara between 6500 and 5000 BC. Pottery from several sites on both the European and Anatolian coasts has preserved milk-derived residues. Since raw milk absorbed by similar ceramics is rapidly destroyed by burial, it seems that the farmers were processing milk into cheese or other products which kept better and were more easily digested by the lactose intolerant.36R.P. Evershed et al., Earliest date for milk use in the Near East and southeastern Europe linked to cattle herding,Nature, vol. 455 (25 September 2008), pp. 528-31.The ability of adults to drink milk seems to have developed later (see lactase persistence).

 

Northern Europe

The arrival of the Neolithic in the British Isles, from radiocarbon dates. Click to enlarge in new window.

Farming arrived late in northern Europe. Farmers seem to have been daunted by the northerly climate. Another problem was the heavy clay soil of the North European Plain. Farmers equipped only with hoes could not work it effectively. For over a millennium they halted on the southern rim of the plain, south of the heaviest alluvial soil. Climate change made farming feasible further north around 4,000 BC. Paradoxically this was an era of global cooling. At such times the prevailing winds shift from latitudinal (east and west) to meridional (north and south). Southerly winds brought drier conditions and warmer summers to the British Isles and south-western Scandinavia, areas temperate for their latitude due to the North Atlantic Drift.37C. Bonsall et al., Climate Change and the Adoption of Agriculture in North-West Europe, European Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 5, No. 1 (2002), pp. 9-23. Farmers spread swiftly across the British Isles.38A. Whittle, F. Healy and A. Bayliss, Gathering Time: Dating the Early Neolithic Enclosures of Southern Britain and Ireland (2011), summarised in A. Whittle, F. Healy and A. Bayliss, The domestication of Britain, British Archaeology, no. 119 (July/August 2011), pp. 14-21; M.Collard, K. Edinborough, S. Shennan, M. G. Thomas, Radiocarbon evidence indicates that migrants introduced farming to Britain, Journal of Archaeological Science, vol. 37, no. 4, (April 2010), pp. 866-870; Alison Sheridan, From Picardie to Pickering and Pencraig Hill? New information on the 'Carinated Bowl Neolithic' in northern Britain, in A. Whittle and V. Cummings (eds.), Going Over: The Mesolithic-Neolithic Transition in North-West Europe, Proceedings of the British Academy vol. 144 (2007), pp. 441-492. Unlike the first farmers to arrive in Europe, they were familiar with dairy farming,39M.S. Copley et al., Direct chemical evidence for widespread dairying in prehistoric Britain, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 100 no. 4 (18 February 18, 2003), pp. 1524-1529. The farmers of the British Isles had quite a penchant for monumental constructions, ensuring that they left their mark on the landscape, though these massive undertakings were not embarked upon as soon as the farmers arrived. They follow a settling-in phase of two or three centuries.40A. Whittle, F. Healy and A. Bayliss, Gathering Time: Dating the Early Neolithic Enclosures of Southern Britain and Ireland(2011); A. Whittle, The temporality of transformation: dating the early development of the Southern British Neolithic, in A. Whittle and V. Cummings (eds.), Going Over: The Mesolithic-Neolithic Transition in North-West Europe, Proceedings of the British Academy vol.144 (2007), pp. 377-398.

Funnel Beaker from Skåne (Historiska museet, Stockholm)

Meanwhile the Funnel Beaker Culture (TRB) sprang up in the North European Plain and Scandinavia around 4,000 BC. It was a remarkably advanced culture for its time and place. Like the British farmers, it had dairy farming and the ox-pulled plough. The plough made it possible to work heavier soils, though not effectively. The wooden plough of the time (the ard) could only scratch the surface. It would take the four-wheeled, iron-shod plough of the Middle Ages, drawn by up to eight oxen, to turn this soil over, maintaining its fertility, and gaining at last its full productivity. The TRB also had wheeled vehicles, domesticated horses and metal. This package has been labelled the Secondary Products Revolution, which arrived over most of Europe in the Copper Age. The TRB has generally been seen as the result of local foragers adopting animal husbandry and new technology from their neighbours. Yet two studies of ancient DNAhave shown a marked difference between North European hunter-gatherers (mtDNA U, U4 and U5) and the Funnel Beaker peoples, who carried a variety of mtDNA haplogroups, including the H lineage so common today in Europe.41B. Bramanti et al, Genetic discontinuity between local hunter-gatherers and Central Europe’s first farmers,Science, (published online September 3, 2009); H. Malmstrom et al, Ancient DNA reveals lack of continuity between Neolithic hunter-gatherers and contemporary Scandinavians, Current Biology, vol. 19 (Nov 2009), pp. 1–5. So it seems that migration played a major part in spreading this new way of life. That fits the alternative argument that the TRB arose in Poland and spread west and north from there.42T. Douglas Price, The introduction of farming in Northern Europe, chap. 10 in (ed.), T. Douglas Price, Europe's First Farmers (2000), pp. 269-85. Yet the actual origin point may have been somewhat further south. Craniometric evidence links the people of the TRB closely to the Neolithic Körös Culture around the Körös River in Hungary and the Middle Danube.43N. von Cramon-Taubadel and R. Pinhasi, Craniometric data support a mosaic model of demic and cultural Neolithic diffusion to outlying regions of Europe,Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (published online before print February 23, 2011). Continuing communications up the Danube probably introduced the Secondary Products Revolution to the TRB, once the migration route was established. However the TRB only penetrated southern Scandinavia. To the north and east, the foraging life continued over huge areas of northern Europe.44M. Zvelebil, Pitted Ware and Related Cultures of Neolithic Northern Europe, in P.Bogucki and P.J. Crabtree (eds.) Ancient Europe 8000 BC–AD 1000: Encyclopaedia of the Barbarian World, Vol. 1 (2004); E. Fornander, G.Erikssona and K. Lidéna, Wild at heart: Approaching Pitted Ware identity, economy and cosmology through stable isotopes in skeletal material from the Neolithic site Korsnäs in Eastern Central Sweden,Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, vol.27, no. 3 (September 2008), pp.281-297.

 

Axes from the Alps

Jadeite axe found in Jersey (Jersey Heritage)
The distribution of large jadeite axes (Cunliffe 2008). Click for larger image in new window.

Just as jade fascinated the early peoples of China, so jadeite became a prized stone among the early farmers of Europe. This veined or mottled rock comes in various colours, often greenish, and could be ground to a glassy finish. It occurs naturally in just one area: the western Alps. Yet jadeite axe-heads are found as far from the Alps as Scotland. How did they get so far afield? Small, utilitarian, jadeite axes are common in the Alps themselves, where the sources of jadeite are close at hand. It is the larger, finely-polished versions that are more widely scattered. Each such axe would have taken many patient hours to make. To judge by the pristine condition in which they are often found, they were probably intended more for symbolic than practical use. Clearly these were highly-prized objects. They could have been traded from hand to hand across Europe. Barry Cunliffe illustrates the trade network that he envisages.45B. Cunliffe, Europe Between the Oceans(2008), pp. 151-153. Yet in some cases the axes travelled with a culture. For example the Chassey Culture of Southern France made its way northwards and could have taken jadeite axes with it. Farmers seem to have entered the British Isles from the very regions of Northern Continental Europe in possession of jadeite axes by that time. So Alison Sheridan suggests that among the heirlooms that they chose to bring with them were their precious jadeite axes. More than 140 jadeite axes have been found in Britain and Ireland and many more in Continental Europe. 46A. Sheridan, Projet JADE: recherches sans frontières, The Archaeologist, vol. 71 (Spring 2009), pp. 38-40. The black dots on the map mark some of the find-spots.

The idea travelled too. Within the British Isles, the desire for lustrous axes in fascinating colours was satisfied by the green volcanic rock of Langdale Pikes in the Lake District, and the yellow-speckled blue/grey porcellanite of north-East Ireland.47G. Cooney, So many shades of rock: colour symbolism and Irish stone axeheads, chapter 4 in A. Jones and G. MacGregor (eds.), Colouring the Past: the significance of colour in archaeological research (2002).

Forest and steppe

On the Northern and Eastern fringes of Europe elements of the farming package appealed to foraging groups in suitable terrain. The European steppe north of the Black and Caspian Seas lay close to the farmers of the Balkans, but did not provide ideal arable farming land. It was more suited for pastoralism, which was adopted from the nearby farmers by those hunter-gathers in closest contact. Gradually the idea spread across the steppe. In the forest-steppe zone the Dnieper-Donets I foragers transformed themselves into Dnieper-Donets II cattle farmers around 5000 BC.48D. Anthony, The Horse, The Wheel and Language: How Bronze Age riders from the Eurasian steppes shaped the modern world (2007), chapters 8-9. Craniomentric studies link Dnieper-Donets people to other hunter-gatherers across Europe, and also to the first farmers around the Baltic in Latvia and Russia, where a similar process took place rather later.49N. von Cramon-Taubadel and R. Pinhasi, Craniometric data support a mosaic model of demic and cultural Neolithic diffusion to outlying regions of Europe, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (published online before print February 23, 2011).

Impact on Europe's population

How many immigrants did it take to spread farming? Hunter-gatherers were always thin on the ground, because of their need to range widely for food. They probably spaced births to limit reproduction to replacement level. It seems that their population fell to particularly low levels in Europe before the first farmers arrived, probably because developing forest cover decreased animal population densities. Then certain areas were badly hit by the climate crisis of 6200 BC. The remaining hunter-gatherers could have been easily outnumbered by a modest, but rapidly growing, influx. Farming boosted growth in the population, which can be detected as a youth bulge in human remains.50J.-P. Bocquet-Appel, When the world’s population took off: the springboard of the Neolithic demographic transition, Science, vol. 333, no. 6042 (29 July 2011), pp. 560-561.

Graph of the Neolithic growth spurt estimated from mtDNA. Click to enlarge in a new window

One study has depicted population growth graphically. The authors selected mtDNA haplogroups associated with the spread of agriculture: T1, T2, J1a, K2a. Then they compared the signals of population growth in these haplogroups (the blue line in the graph) with growth in mtDNA lineages from the Upper Paleolithic: U5, V, and H3 (the brown line in the graph). You will notice the dramatic spurt for the blue line around 7,000 years ago = 5000 BC.51C.R. Gignoux, B. M. Henn and J. L. Mountain, Rapid, global demographic expansions after the origins of agriculture, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, online 28 March 2011 before print. However the blue line begins to level out around 4000 BC, while the brown line slowly gains. Why is that?

The farming pioneers in Europe, though initially successful, eventually encountered problems which led to population crashes.52S. Shennan, Evolutionary Demography and the Population History of the European Early Neolithic, Human Biology, vol. 81, nos. 2–3 (April–June 2009), pp.339–355; S.Shennan and K. Edinborough, Prehistoric population history:from the Late Glacial to the Late Neolithic in Central and Northern Europe,Journal of Archaeological Science, vol. 34 (2007), pp.1339-45; Miikka Tallavaara, Petro Pesonen and Markku Oinonen, Prehistoric population history in eastern Fennoscandia,Journal of Archaeological Science, vol. 37 (2010), pp. 251–260. Even some of their stock died out. Pig lineages associated with the LBK became extinct.53G. Larson et al. 2007, Ancient DNA, pig domestication, and the spread of the Neolithic into Europe, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, vol. 104, no.15, pp. 276–15,281. Partly the problem stemmed from a shift to a more oceanic climate in northwest Europe, but the farmers themselves played a part in their own decline, triggering soil erosion by forest clearance. In Ireland bog built up over abandoned Neolithic field systems from 3000 BC, preserving them for archaeologists to find in the modern era.54J. Grant et al., The Archaeology Coursebook: an introduction to themes, sites, methods and skills, 2nd edn. (2005), p. 253; L. Verrill and R. Tipping, Use and abandonment of a Neolithic field system at Belderrig, Co. Mayo, Ireland: Evidence for economic marginality, The Holocene, vol. 20, no. 7 (November 2010), pp. 1011–1021.

Then after the Neolithic, Europe had two great bursts of migration, both from fringe regions where farming had been adopted by foragers. One came from the European steppein the Copper and Bronze Ages. The other was the spread of their Germanic and Slavic descendants in the Migration Period. This explains why the ancient European forager mtDNA U5 continue to expand long after foraging had disappeared. In fact another study which looked at U5 specifically showed a large population expansion after five thousand years ago, which fits the late Neolithic/early Bronze Age.55L. Pereira et al., Population expansion in the North African Late Pleistocene signalled by mitochondrial DNA haplogroup U6, BMC Evolutionary Biology, vol. 10, no. 390 (21 December 2010).

Both U5 and U4 appear among steppe nomads, along with Neolithic T1 and K2b, and haplogroups H, H5 and H6.56C. Keyser et al., Ancient DNA provides new insights into the history of south Siberian Kurgan people, Human Genetics, vol. 126, no. 3 (September 2009), pp. 395-410. Almost half of modern Europeans carry haplogroup H of some kind. So the comparative lack of this haplogroup in Mesolithic and Neolithic aDNA is a clue that migration continued to shape the population of Europe after the spread of farming. Although the scientists who discovered this were initially puzzled by it, their attention has now turned to the European steppe as the most likely source of the missing factor X in their equation.57B. Bramanti et al, Genetic discontinuity between local hunter-gatherers and Central Europe’s first farmers,Science, vol. 326, no. 5949 (2 October 2009), pp. 137-140; T. Ewe, Invasion aus der steppe, Europas ratselhafte ahnen, Bild der Wissenschaft (February 2011), pp. 60ff.

Notes

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  1. M. Zeder, Domestication and early agriculture in the Mediterranean Basin: Origins, diffusion, and impact, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, vol. 105 (2008), no. 33, pp.11597-11604 dates the domestication of animals 1,000 years earlier than previous estimates; R. Pinhasi, J. Fort and J. Ammerman, Tracing theorigin and spread of agriculture in Europe, PLoS Biology, vol. 3,no. 12: e410 (2005), pp. 2220-28; I. Kuijt and B. Finlayson, Evidence for food storage and predomestication granaries 11,000 years ago in the Jordan Valley, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, vol. 106, no. 27 (July 7, 2009), pp. 10966-10970.
  2. S. Scham, The World's First Temple, Archaeology, vol. 61, no. 6, (November/December 2008).
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  4. P. Bellwood, First Farmers: The origin of agricultural societies (2005), pp. 12-20.
  5. M. Zeder, Domestication and early agriculture in the Mediterranean Basin: origins, diffusion, and impact, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, vol. 105 (2008), no. 33, pp.11597-11604.
  6. E. Guldogan, Mezraa-Teleilat settlement Impressed Ware and transferring Neolithic life style?, in Paolo Matthiae et al. (eds.), Proceedings of the 6th International Congress of the Archaeology, vol. 3 (2010), pp. 375-380; B. Cunliffe, Europe Between the Oceans (2008), pp.115-6.
  7. P. Bellwood, First Farmers: The origins of Agricultural Societies (2005), pp. 68-84 and figure 4.1. Domesticated plant dispersal and DNA evidence from cattle supports the same two routes: see F. Coward et al., The spread of Neolithic plant economies from the Near East to Northwest Europe: a phylogenetic analysis, Journal of Archaeological Science, vol. 35, no. 1 (2008), pp. 42-56; J.E. Decker et al., Resolving the evolution of extant and extinct ruminants with high-throughput phylogenomics, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, vol. 106, no. 43 (27 October 2009).
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  41. B. Bramanti et al, Genetic discontinuity between local hunter-gatherers and Central Europe’s first farmers, Science, (published online September 3, 2009); H. Malmstrom et al, Ancient DNA reveals lack of continuity between Neolithic hunter-gatherers and contemporary Scandinavians, Current Biology, vol. 19 (Nov 2009), pp. 1–5.
  42. T. Douglas Price, The introduction of farming in Northern Europe, chap. 10 in (ed.), T. Douglas Price, Europe's First Farmers (2000), pp. 269-85.
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  48. D. Anthony, The Horse, The Wheel and Language: How Bronze Age riders from the Eurasian steppes shaped the modern world (2007), chapters 8-9.
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  50. J.-P. Bocquet-Appel, When the world’s population took off: the springboard of the Neolithic demographic transition, Science, vol. 333, no. 6042 (29 July 2011), pp. 560-561.
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  53. G. Larson et al. 2007, Ancient DNA, pig domestication, and the spread of the Neolithic into Europe, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, vol. 104, no.15, pp. 276–15, 281.
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