Tracing the origin and spread of agriculture in Europe.

Pinhasi R, Fort J, Ammerman AJ - PLoS Biol. (2005)

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pbio-0030410-g002: Linear Regression Fits to the Data (n = 735 Sites) for Uncalibrated Dates in Years BP and Distances of Sites Computed from the POA with the Highest R-Value in Table 1(A) Based on great-circle distances. The speed implied by the distance-versus-time regression is the slope of the dashed line, namely 0.71 ± 0.04 km/y (in agreement with statistical theory, the error range of 0.04 km/y has been computed as twice the standard error of the slope and corresponds to a 95% confidence interval). The speed implied by the time-versus-distance regression (full line) is the inverse of the corresponding regression slope, namely 1.04 ± 0.05 km/y (95% confidence interval). Therefore, we estimate the overall speed range as 0.7–1.1 km/y. If calibrated dates are used in the analysis (top axis), the result is 0.6–1.0 km/y (see the first figure in Protocol S1).(B) Based on shortest-path distances. The distance-versus-time regression yields 0.85 ± 0.04 km/y, whereas the time-versus-distance regression yields 1.22 ± 0.06 km/y. The overall estimated speed range is thus 0.8–1.3 km/y. If calibrated dates are used (top axis), the result is 0.7–1.1 km/y (see the second figure in Protocol S1).
Mentions: In order to estimate the speed of the agricultural wave of advance, we use distances relative to the POA with the highest R-values in Table 1: Abu Madi for great circles (Figure 2A) and Cayönü for shortest paths (Figure 2B). This yields a speed range of 0.7–1.1 km/y using great circles and 0.8–1.3 km/y using shortest paths (95% confidence interval, see the caption of Figure 2). The shortest-path rate is obviously higher because the corresponding distances are equal or longer than great-circle distances, but what is very interesting is that the speed range is almost identical whether we use great circles or shortest paths. This also holds if we use calibrated dates (which yield 0.6–1.0 km/y for great circles and 0.7–1.1 km/y for shortest paths; see the caption of Figure 2). All of the other POAs (Table 1) yield essentially the same speed range (0.6–1.3 km/y). The time at which the spread began can be estimated, under the same hypothesis of linearity (straight fits in Figure 2), to fall within the interval of 9,000–10,500 years before present (BP; uncalibrated years) or 10,000–11,500 BP (calibrated years).

Bottom Line: 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.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: School of Human and Life Sciences, Whitelands College, Roehampton University, London, United Kingdom. r.pinhasi@roehampton.ac.uk

ABSTRACT
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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