December 26 2019
The spread of farming in Europe is usually thought of as a straightforward case of diffusion from a centre, or centres, of domestication in southwest Asia, to a periphery in which resources were simply not available for agriculture to develop independently. While this narrative still holds true, broadly speaking – for instance, there is a definite gradient in arrival time of agriculture from southeast to northwest Europe – farming expansion appears to be more complex than initially anticipated. Instead of the linear expansion at a pace of 1km per year projected by Albert Ammerman and Luigi Cavalli-Sforza (1971), for example, we are confronted with an alternation of phases in which farming rapidly swept into regions the size of modern European countries, and phases in which farming expansion unexpectedly stopped for hundreds or even thousands of years. In western Anatolia, farming expansion was delayed by up to 2000 calibrated years, when compared with the uptake of farming in central Anatolia. If there was genuinely a spatial segregation between the origins of agriculture and the spread of Neolithic economies, as argued here, it is not clear where one process stopped and where the other one began. Anatolia lies at the juncture of the two, and that is precisely what makes this region crucial for our understanding of farming expansion in western Eurasia. This introduction to the volume on the central/western Anatolian farming frontier addresses three broad issues: (1) When was farming adopted in central Anatolia, western Anatolia, and beyond? (2) How was farming adopted in Anatolia? Piecemeal? As an integrated ‘package’? Or both? and (3) Who spread farming?