November 20, 2005

Pinhasi et al. on the origin and spread of agriculture

PubMed has an interesting abstract. I will update the entry with the link and post my comments once the paper becomes available.


From the paper:
As far as we know, no cultural-diffusion model to date has been able to derive a speed compatible with the observed range (0.6–1.3 km/y).


The values of a and m have been carefully derived in previous work from plots of the population number versus time (a) and records of individual movements (m). Data from anthropological studies gathered hitherto yield estimates of 0.029–0.035/y for a, 900–2,200 km2/generation for m, and 29–35 y for T (Text S3). Using these ranges, the above formula yields a speed range of 0.6–1.1 km/y. Thus, the speed range predicted by demic diffusion, namely 0.6–1.1 km/y, is compatible with that observed, namely 0.6–1.3 km/y (obtained above from Figure 2). Our conclusion at this point is that demic diffusion predicts a speed compatible with the archaeological observations, whereas no cultural-diffusion model has been developed so far that can explain the observed speed.
PLoS Biology (early access)

Tracing the Origin and Spread of Agriculture in Europe.

Pinhasi R, Fort J, Ammerman AJ.

The origins of early farming and its spread to Europe have been the subject of major interest for some time. The main controversy today is over the nature of the Neolithic transition in Europe: the extent to which the spread was, for the most part, indigenous and animated by imitation (cultural diffusion) or else was driven by an influx of dispersing populations (demic diffusion). We analyze the spatiotemporal dynamics of the transition using radiocarbon dates from 735 early Neolithic sites in Europe, the Near East, and Anatolia. We compute great-circle and shortest-path distances from each site to 35 possible agricultural centers of origin-ten are based on early sites in the Middle East and 25 are hypothetical locations set at 5 degrees latitude/longitude intervals. We perform a linear fit of distance versus age (and vice versa) for each center. For certain centers, high correlation coefficients (R > 0.8) are obtained. This implies that a steady rate or speed is a good overall approximation for this historical development. The average rate of the Neolithic spread over Europe is 0.6-1.3 km/y (95% confidence interval). This is consistent with the prediction of demic diffusion (0.6-1.1 km/y). An interpolative map of correlation coefficients, obtained by using shortest-path distances, shows that the origins of agriculture were most likely to have occurred in the northern Levantine/Mesopotamian area.


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