December 05, 2013

Early 7th millennium BC Initial Neolithic in Franchthi Cave

Antiquity Volume: 87 Number: 338 Page: 1001–1015

Early seventh-millennium AMS dates from domestic seeds in the Initial Neolithic at Franchthi Cave (Argolid, Greece)

Catherine Perlès1, Anita Quiles2 and Hélène Valladas2

When, and by what route, did farming first reach Europe? A terrestrial model might envisage a gradual advance around the northern fringes of the Aegean, reaching Thrace and Macedonia before continuing southwards to Thessaly and the Peloponnese. New dates from Franchthi Cave in southern Greece, reported here, cast doubt on such a model, indicating that cereal cultivation, involving newly introduced crop species, began during the first half of the seventh millennium BC. This is earlier than in northern Greece and several centuries earlier than in Bulgaria, and suggests that farming spread to south-eastern Europe by a number of different routes, including potentially a maritime, island-hopping connection across the Aegean Sea. The results also illustrate the continuing importance of key sites such as Franchthi to our understanding of the European Neolithic transition, and the additional insights that can emerge from the application of new dating projects to these sites.

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7 comments:

terryt said...

"suggests that farming spread to south-eastern Europe by a number of different routes, including potentially a maritime, island-hopping connection across the Aegean Sea".

That is in no way surprising. We have good evidence that humans were able to reach many islands in the Mediterranean by around 10,000 years ago. Evidence older than that time is more unreliable.

eurologist said...

Good to have new dates from the Franchthi cave. This confirms that the early Greek serial neolithic is roughly contemporaneous with Western Anatolia, and may slightly precede it. The study also again confirms from the other context, these are the local Mesolithic people turned agriculturalists.

It also makes perfect sense that NW Anatolia, Macedonia and Bulgaria come later, since the climate is colder with common frosts in the winter, versus no significant frosts in the middle and southern Aegean and maritime SW Anatolia and N Levant.

And the new dates are in line with the earliest serial Neolithic on Crete.

This site is interesting because one can see the successive introduction of foreign (from ~ SW Anatolia) fruit, nuts, legumes, and finally serial - all within roughly the same cultural context. This clearly indicates that these items were procured via seafaring trade with (most likely) SW Anatolia.

Paul Crowley said...

That farming spread by "island-hopping" should have been predictable. Few researchers in this field remark on the extreme vulnerability of necessarily-largely-isolated farming households to predation by wandering bands of thieves and brigands. Livestock and stored crops can easily be stolen or destroyed. The first requirement for farming is continuing peace. Who would want to sow crops today in the contested areas of Syria? Such peace is much more readily found on a remote island, rather than on any mainland site. This logic can reasonably be extended to larger islands, such as Cyprus, Crete and possibly Sardinia -- on which local warlords could have held sway with relatively little prospect of disturbance from mainland aggressors. It is no surprise that we see the first signs of advanced civilisation on such islands. Island-hopping (for the spread of farming) should be considered elsewhere, e.g. in the Far East. Also, some kind of 'island' must have provided the security, over generations, that enabled farming to initially develop.

Paul Crowley

Grey said...

As farmers can't produce food on the move it makes sense movement will be restricted by journey time. So if you look at a map and imagine how far a group could travel in say a month by sea, river or overland you can see why sea and river would arrive first.

That also creates the possibility of a hare and tortoise situation where the maritime travelers arrive somewhere first and the slower overland travelers arrive later - perhaps much later.

Thirdly it illustrates how a more sheep herding orientated population could spread easier along overland routes as they could travel further and easier before they risked starving.

eurologist said...

BTW, the above "serial" should be cereal, of course. My auto-correct apologizes.

Rokus said...

Sorry - but that is just completely ignorant American / Anglosaxon literature speak. SE Europeans, such as those living in the Balkans, still were Europeans.
John Hawks mentioned two massive mtDNA replacements. Apparently the Balkans were genetically still largely "Neolithic" in the Iron age, suggesting currently the Balkans are completely different. Indeed, we don't have any clue about the genetic composition of the Balkans before the Neolithic and maybe all we call Neolithic in Europe is actually Balkanic. However, this heritage only survived as a small component today.

Copper and Bronze-working people around the Pontic were still Europeans.
Mid-Neolithic genes also arrived in the Pontic and I'm not sure the Pontic was so very European before that. Even R1a may have arrived there from the west, where much older haplotypes can still be found. Of all European regions the Pontic attests the least level of continuity since 10,000 years ago.

Proto-Indo-European folks from the Pontic region were still Europeans.
Como on! Not even Mallory dares to say so anymore:
Mallory - Twenty-first century clouds over Indo-European homelands, where he considers a Pontic transmission area as good as any and admit to serious agriculture-related deficiencies of the Pontic model:
how can we describe the eastern archaeological cultures of the Don (Repin), Volga (Khvalynsk) or the entire Don-Ural region (Yamnaya) as Indo-European if they lacked arable agriculture?
Rather as a transmission area?
If one accepts a transmission to the steppelands, then Renfrew’s theory in so far as the Indo-Iranians and Tokharians are concerned is essentially the same as that of the Pontic-Caspian
model and will share the same deficiencies of the steppe model
[...]
all theories must still explain why relatively advanced agrarian societies in greater Iran and India abandoned their own languages for those of later Neolithic or Bronze Age Indo-Iranian intruders.


Apparently we have to accept a global situation where new genetic components continuously expand at the cost of older genes, anywhere. Even IE expansion can't have been the exception.

terryt said...

"Apparently we have to accept a global situation where new genetic components continuously expand at the cost of older genes, anywhere. Even IE expansion can't have been the exception".

I have often suggested that such a process of genetic expansion and mixing has been going on since Homo/Australopithecus first left Africa. And probably long before because much the same appears to occurr in most other species as well. In fact the process is probably the main driver of evolution.