Climate shaped how Neolithic farmers and European hunter-gatherers interacted after a major slowdown from 6,100 BCE to 4,500 BCE

L Betti, R Beyer, Eppie R Jones, Jon Anders Eriksson, F Tassi, V Siska, M Leonardi, MD Pierpaolo, LK Bentley, PR Nigst, J Stock, R Pinhasi, A Manica

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Abstract

The Neolithic transition in Europe was driven by the rapid dispersal of Near Eastern farmers who, over a period of 3,500 years, brought food production to the furthest corners of the continent. This wave of expansion, however, was far from homogeneous, and climatic factors may have driven a marked slowdown observed at higher latitudes. Here we test this hypothesis by assembling a large database of archaeological dates of first arrival of farming to quantify the expansion dynamics. We identify four axes of expansion and observe a slowdown along three axes when crossing the same climatic threshold. This threshold reflects the quality of the growing season, suggesting that Near Eastern crops might have struggled in more challenging climatic conditions. This same threshold also predicts the mixing of farmers and hunter-gatherers as estimated from ancient DNA, suggesting that unreliable yields in these regions might have favoured the contact between the two groups.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Human Behaviour
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 11 Feb 2020

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