12,000–11,700 cal BP
12,000–11,700 cal BP
The Collapse of Foraging and Origins of Cultivation in Western Asia
We take up the question of “why” cultivation was adopted by the end of the Younger Dryas by reviewing evidence in the Levant, a sub-region of southwestern Asia, from the Late Glacial Maximum through the first millennium of the Holocene. Based on the evidence, we argue that the demographic increase of foraging societies in the Levant at the Terminal Pleistocene formed the backdrop for the collapse of foraging adaptations, compelling several groups within a particular “core area” of the Fertile Crescent to become fully sedentary and introduce cultivation alongside intensified gathering in the Late Glacial Maximum, ca. 12,000–11,700 cal BP. In addition to traditional hunting and gathering, the adoption of stable food sources became the norm. The systematic cultivation of wild cereals begun in the northern Levant resulted in the emergence of complex societies across the entire Fertile Crescent within several millennia. Results of archaeobotanical and archaeozoological investigations provide a basis for reconstructing economic strategies, spatial organization of sites, labor division, and demographic shifts over the first millennium of the Holocene. We draw our conclusion from two kinds of data from the Levant, a sub-region of southwestern Asia, during the Terminal Pleistocene and early Holocene: climatic fluctuations and the variable human reactions to natural and social calamities. The evidence in the Levant for the Younger Dryas, a widely recognized cold period across the northern hemisphere, is recorded in speleothems and other climatic proxies, such as Dead Sea levels and marine pollen records.
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