May 17, 2011

The death of "acculturation" as a model for European farming dispersal

Very good open access article that shows how migrationism has returned to fashion and both the laborious wave of advance, as well as the processual "acculturation" model in which Mesolithic people slowly adopt elements of farming culture, transforming themselves into farmers are wrong. My only beef with the article is its treatment of genetics, which is largely based on rehashing of pre-ancient DNA studies and ignores the latest literature.
From the (open access) paper:
In this article I will consider the spread of agriculture from central Europe to the Atlantic (fig. 1). This involves four major “spread events”: the Cardial of the western Mediterranean, the Linienbandkeramik (LBK) of the interior, the Trægtbægerkultur (TRB) of southern Scandinavia, and the Neolithic of Britain and Ireland.
...
Above all, the migrationist scenarios suggested here may account for one thing: why we so rarely see long-term “transitional” stages between foraging and farming. Now we see foragers, now we see farmers; but in Europe we have singularly failed to catch foragers in the act of becoming farmers. The long-term developmental processes we have expected for decades have not materialized. Farmers can evidently trade axes with foragers for centuries or longer without destabilizing them or leading them to adopt farming. “Processes” there undoubtedly are, but we need to look inside the standard deviation of a radiocarbon date to see them in action.
Related:

Current Anthropology http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/658368

Westward Ho!
The Spread of Agriculture from Central Europe to the Atlantic

Peter Rowley-Conwy

Recent work on the four major areas of the spread of agriculture in Neolithic western Europe has revealed that they are both chronologically and economically much more abrupt than has hitherto been envisaged. Most claims of a little agriculture in Late Mesolithic communities are shown to be incorrect. In most places, full sedentary agriculture was introduced very rapidly at the start of the Neolithic. “Transitional” economies are virtually absent. Consequently, the long-term processes of internal development from forager to farmer, so often discussed in Mesolithic-Neolithic Europe, are increasingly hard to sustain. The spread of agriculture by immigration is thus an increasingly viable explanation. The crucial role of boats for transport and of dairying for the survival of new farming settlements are both highlighted. Farming migrations were punctuated and sporadic, not a single wave of advance. Consequently, there was much genetic mixing as farming spread, so that agricultural immigrants into any region carried a majority of native European Mesolithic genes, not Near Eastern ones.

Link

13 comments:

Maju said...

The paper lacks of a key element of analysis: lithic industry. It is lithic industry what informs us that most (but surely not all) Cardium Pottery (and of course its derived forms: Epicardial and Dolmenic Megalithism) were local, native, indigenous, at least largely.

This opinion article (not truly a paper) which seems to be written from an ideological rather than scientific viewpoint and with a clear Nordic bias (lots of NW European "key" cultures lack of fine detail on the much more diverse and important Southern, or also Eastern, European ones) totally misses the point. It does so because it does not consider the lithic industry, which in most of Cardium Pottery sites is local and virtually the same as was before Neolithic arrival. In SW Europe (i.e. West of the Alps), that means Epimagdalenian tech-cultures like Tardenoisian (known as "geometric" microlithism in parts of Iberia) or residual Azilian (known as "microlaminar" also).

This is and has always been the key argument for (mostly) "adoptionism" versus the unsustainable "migrationism", which clashes once and again with the evidence.

Some didactic materials on the matter may be (most in Spanish): UNED - didactic unit 11, didactic unit 13 , Neolithic of Nerja, Neolithic of North Morocco (also partly Cardial). Many more can be searched for if need be: the key is in any case that lithic industry does not change (except by the incorporation of farming-specific tools such as sickles and hand mills).

With that factual record you cannot ever argue for massive replacement because it doesn't make any sense whatsoever.

Annie Mouse said...

"Now we see foragers, now we see farmers; but in Europe we have singularly failed to catch foragers in the act of becoming farmers."

Only if you have your eyes shut.

For the same group of people you see immigrant farmers and I see local people using the new technology.

If farmers truly swamped Europe from the east the genetics of Europe would be more consistent and identical/similar to a source farming population. This does not happen. I could buy an expansion from the south, but not the east.

I have seen in my lifetime the adoption of many new technologies almost overnight. Television, personal computers, the internet etc. It was not necessary for populations to be exterminated or out-bred during adoption of the telephone, aeroplanes, modern sanitation. We are a flexible people, that is our strength.

It seems we are prisoners of our philosophies and preconceptions.

eurologist said...

Actually, the author does not argue for population replacement at all - he mainly wants to highlight the incredible speed of advance, and argues that this could have only happened with "leapfrog" type of migrations. Which I also believe likely happened, here or there. Except, not everywhere.

Also, the author thinks most DNA was local, but does not provide any mechanism to reconcile these two ideas (except perhaps for posing that the agriculturalists "took" local women).

At any rate, no simple migration theory can explain 800 km in 100 years out of necessity. Even if a population doubles every 20 years, it does not produce sufficient offspring in five generations to cover such a vast area. It would have been safer and more economic to slash/burn available local loess soil forest than to risk further advancing along the rivers that were the contemporaneous, prime thoroughfares of the Mesolithic people (remember, the forests were extremely dense and almost impenetrable - the same forests and moors that in no way could allow Kurgans to strut their unfed horses through Poland and Germany).

princenuadha said...

"with a clear Nordic bias (lots of NW European "key" cultures lack of fine detail on the much more diverse and important Southern, or also Eastern, European ones)"

Ok captain paranoid.

batman said...

Congrats Dienekes,

This seem to make sense - given the genetic development of doemstic cattles (as observed) and the persistance of lactose within human beings.

terryt said...

"It seems we are prisoners of our philosophies and preconceptions".

Very true.

Annie Mouse said...

Yup, hordes of neolithic women jumped in their coracles and, dragging herds of cows through the water behind them, overwhelmed the poor feeble foragers in the space of a few years. Perhaps they used the the domesticated cows to scare the hunters into submission? Yeah right.

This article is interesting for its discussion of the practicalities of water travel. And for drawing together some of the studies. But of course the rivers and shores were the superhighways of the day, that is not new.

The basic assumption made in this article that a rapid transition = migration is very unsound. IMO rapid transition looks like people absorbing ideas, not population replacement. Unless the foragers were massacred, and this is not suggested.

Plus it is argued that spread in some areas was due to migrationism and others adaptation, when in fact they have very similar genetics.

The patterns described fit perfectly with Joe Forager travelling up river to check out the bright lights and returning with some new ideas and Jane Farmer as a wife. Maybe a dowry of a cow or two. Transport of animals/crops etc to an established community makes more sense than mass migration de novo (and having to starve for a season). Its how farms work now, a new idea is tried on the side until it is proven to be worth while.

The only thing this article shows is migration of ideas and domesticates. As still happens today, with negligible migration of humans.

eurologist said...

Yes, adoption of new ideas and lifestyles takes one or two generations if the arguments for it are strong, and those against weak (the foragers did have a strong fall-back position, and most were settled at that time, with permanent or semi-permanent housing, anyway).

Also, reception with open arms would have been the win-win situation seemingly required - clearly, the (largely settled, well-fed) "foragers" had the better hunting skills and could have easily sabotaged any attempt of farming in numerous ways. Unlike the Americas, the farmers did not come with superior weapon technology nor a set of diseases to kill.

batman said...

The landscapes and the climates do vary, from area to area.

Rivers and estuaries, lakes, seas, shorelines and archipelagos - they all favour a fishing-culture. Like meadow-lands, woodlands and highlands favour hunting and fishing.

Flat countries with wide open graslands on the other hand - like the the English lowlands or the Eurasian plains - from Holland to Himalaya.

Perhaps time to open our second eye when we aproach the question of farming vs. fishing. We're perfectly capable of doing both - and the Eurasian people who survived ice-time were not any different to us. They just needed time to develop the open plains into pastural and agricultural farmlands.

Establishing farms and farming communities all over Eurasia neccesarily take som time, when you start with a handfull of surviviors - of both men/women and cattle. Moreover they had to await their cousins to establish the pioneering settlements of the northern hemisphere - creating communities based on gatherering, fishing and/or hunting.

Thus we have the first pastoralists - with sheeps and goats and a slash-burn culture of rye and barley, before the climate stabilized and cows, pigs and chicken could supply the square fields of farming that we still see throughout the semi-arctic climate-zones of Eurasia and North America.

From then on we find a lot of combined forms of life - where a typical fishing-family could keep one pig, a couple of cows and goats, plus a dusin chicks and a field of barley and carrots...

There doesn't seem to have been any language-problem between the various groups - even in the Ahrensburgian time, where hard-core fishing-people lived less than a mile away from the pioneering farmers of N Germany and Denmark.

Maju said...

@batman: Ahrensburgian ends by c. 9000 BP, long before any Neolithic arrival to the area.

I agree that the simple colonization model has major issues, including some you mention (time), but I also think that if anywhere in Europe there was a colonization, that was in the Central-East Balcans and then Central Europe (Danubian Neolithic).

Other Neolithics (Cardial, Eastern European, Atlantic...) are not really supportive, from the archaeological data, of mass colonization but Danubian Neolithic could well be.

Another thing is to argue simplistically the colonists as arriving directly from Anatolia, what seems far fetched. Thessaly/Southern Balcans and then the area of Hungary must be considered as important intermediate steps where the new waves coalesced for at least some centuries (a whole millennium maybe in the case of Thessaly) becoming different and possibly incorporating some native blood even before expansion happened.

peterfirefly said...

"Trægtbægerkultur"

It's actually Tragtbægerkultur (Funnel-cup culture - the official translation is apparently "funnel-beaker culture").

--Native Danish speaker and long-time reader of Skalk.

Grey said...

"Yup, hordes of neolithic women jumped in their coracles and, dragging herds of cows through the water behind them, overwhelmed the poor feeble foragers in the space of a few years."

A couple of points.

1) Population density. If a piece of terriotory could support x number of hunter-gatherers but 4x farmers (or whatever the ratio might be) the farmers would generally greatly outnumber the foragers at the point of conflict.

nb The early stages of American colonization.

2) A farming settlement might drive away or hunt out the local wildlife the foragers depended on especially as farming settlements would likely to be built right next to the local water supply.

3) If the farmers had domesticated animals and the natives didn't maybe there were diseases?

4) Expansion along the paths of least resistance leaving the foragers in all the more difficult terrain allowing for a later slow diffusion of technology.

terryt said...

"Also, the author thinks most DNA was local, but does not provide any mechanism to reconcile these two ideas (except perhaps for posing that the agriculturalists 'took' local women)".

It is quite possible for haplogroups to 'invade' leaving aDNA almost unaltered. A new arrival is quite likely to have children with a local. In which case half the offspring's aDNA will be local while its haplogroup is introduced. In the next generation that offspring is likely to have offspring with yet another local, halving the introduced aDNA once more while leaving the introduced haplogroup intact. And so on. Which fits this scenario:

"The patterns described fit perfectly with Joe Forager travelling up river to check out the bright lights and returning with some new ideas and Jane Farmer as a wife".