Prehistoric demography and the spread of the Neolithic: mathematical models based on radiocarbon dates

The transition from hunting and gathering to farming, associated with the transition to the Neolithic (from about 7000 to 4000 BC in Europe) was a pivotal development in history. This transition, often called the “Neolithic revolution”, introduced deep changes in the economic and social development of humans. With the arrival of the Neolithic, hunting and food gathering gave way to agriculture and stock breeding in many parts of Europe; pottery-making spread into even broader areas. The gradual spread of the farming technologies from the Near East to Europe is well documented by numerous radiocarbon dates. We present a mathematical model, based on a compilation of radiocarbon dates, of the spread of the Neolithic. Our population dynamics model suggests the presence of two waves of advance, one from the Near East (carrying farming technologies), and another through Eastern Europe (introducing pottery making). Thus, we provide a quantitative framework in which a unified interpretation of the Western and Eastern Neolithic can be developed.


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