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The Agricultural Revolution in PrehistoryWhy did Foragers become Farmers?$
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Graeme Barker

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199281091

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199281091.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 24 October 2021

The Agricultural Revolution in Prehistory: Why did Foragers become Farmers?

The Agricultural Revolution in Prehistory: Why did Foragers become Farmers?

(p.382) 10 The Agricultural Revolution in Prehistory: Why did Foragers become Farmers?
The Agricultural Revolution in Prehistory

Graeme Barker

Oxford University Press

As Chapter 1 described, the origins of agriculture have been debated by archaeologists for most of the discipline’s history. The topic has been a particular focus of archaeological field and laboratory research from the middle of the twentieth century onwards. The number of suggested causes that has been proposed over the years for why prehistoric foragers might have become farmers appears almost endless, with everybody joining the party including the lunatic fringe (Table 10.1)! The main course of scholarly debate, though, has been conditioned partly by changing theoretical currents in archaeological thinking and perceptions of present-day or recent foraging and farming societies (Chapter 2) and partly by the application of improved methodologies (Chapter 3). In the regional studies that form the core of this book, I have concentrated primarily on the archaeological evidence left by prehistoric foragers and farmers, in all its richness, from stones to bones to rock art to starch grains (and more besides), though I have also made reference to the contributions of the several other disciplines that have contributed to the debate, including anthropology, ecology, ethnoarchaeology, genetics, geomorphology, linguistics, and palynology (pollen analysis). The next sections briefly review the principal themes that have emerged from those studies, as the basis for some concluding reflections on whether it is possible or desirable to arrive at an overarching explanation or set of explanations for why foragers became farmers. South-West Asia has probably been the focus of more debate on discussions about the origins of agriculture than anywhere else in the world. On the present evidence what can clearly be recognized as the Eurasian system of mixed farming (the cultivation of wheat and barley and the herding of sheep and goats) seems to have developed in this region very early in the Holocene. It underpinned the dramatic development of PPNB villages in and around the ‘hilly flanks’ of the Fertile Crescent some 1,000 years into the Holocene, c.8500 BC. The parts of South-West Asia where these villages came into being were also places where wild cereals, sheep, and goats were naturally located.

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