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Last week, I shared with you all some research on the Neolithic/agricultural revolution in Iran and Turkey, specifically on barley and cattle domestication. Since then, PNAS has published a related paper, “Domestication and early agriculture in the Mediterranean Basin: Origins, diffusion, and impact,” by Melinda Zeder. Zeder believes that the domestication of sheep and goat happened 1,000 years earlier than previously assumed.

She bases this hypothesis on the observation that the previous, younger date is based upon the ‘culling of female goats and sheep,’ who are smaller, more gracile, and manageable. But, according to her, people were herding these animals much earlier. In fact, in places like Cyprus, native species like the pygmy elephants and pygmy hippopotamuses were replaced by introduced, domesticated species such as the sheep, goat, cattle, and pig by 10,500 years ago.

Zeder has generated two useful graphs to document the the regions and dates where the four domesticated species were first pastoralized. The evidence from last week’s paper on the milk jugs in northwestern Turkey isn’t included, instead a Zeder marks a 10,000 year old mark for the domestication of cattle in northern Iraq and Syria.

A representation of the time at which these animals were domesticated

A representation of the time at which these animals were domesticated

In this second graph, it is pretty obvious what the red circles stand for, the dates when farming sprung up around the Mediterranean. Green dots represent the diffusion of agriculture, whereas red and blue dots indicate regions where farmers migrated too and integrated into preexisting populations. From this you can tell that Zeder suggests both a diffusion and assimilation model of agricultural revolution.

Agricultural Expansion in Neolithic Mediterreanean

Agricultural Expansion in Neolithic Mediterreanean

    Zeder, M.A. (2008). Domestication and early agriculture in the Mediterranean Basin: Origins, diffusion, and impact. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0801317105
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