The Spread of Agro-Pastoral Economies across Mediterranean Europe: A View from the Far West

The Spread of Agro-Pastoral Economies across Mediterranean Europe: A View from the Far West.
Jo5o Zilhio
Instituto de Arqueologia, Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa,
1699 Lisboa Codex, Portugal

The transition to food production in Portugal begins with the arrival of cardial pottery and domesticates, an event that can be dated to the time period between 6800 and 6200 Bp. These items are found in sites located in the northern part of Estremadura. Contemporaneous hunter-gatherer adaptations are known to have continued their development up to c. 6000 BP in areas located further south, centered in the inner part of the estuaries of the rivers Tejo, Sado and Mira. This pattern is interpreted as indicating that the onset of agro-pastoral economies is linked to the arrival of small groups of settlers that, through interaction with local hunters, are at the origins of the subsequent expansion (completed about one thousand years later) of those economies to the rest of the Portuguese territory.

The archaeological evidence from southern Spain and southern France commonly invoked by proponents of models of the transition to food production as the result of the domestication of local resources or of the acquisition of novel resources bylocal hunters through long-distance exchange systems is shown to be flawed. Severe disturbances at the MesolithiclNeolithic interface of the stratigraphic sequences upon which such models are based-sometimes not recognized by the excavators, but documented either by subsequent work or by critical evaluation of the site reports–can be shown to have occurred. Such disturbances would account well for the radiocarbon dates between 8000 and 7000 Bp obtained at some of those sites, as well as for the presence of sheep bones in their pre- Neolithic strata.

I’ll admit to not reading this one yet (it’s late). One for Luis.

3 responses to “The Spread of Agro-Pastoral Economies across Mediterranean Europe: A View from the Far West

  1. 🙂

    I take note and will take my time reading it. The Uni manual I own (late 80s) calls for a distinct Andalusian Neolithic (not by that name but anyhow) of unknown origin that has the following traits:

    1. La Almagra style pottery: rather sophisticated with protruding decorations, totally unrelated to Cardium (or to anything else we know).

    2. Presence of developed crops (cereals, lentils) and of aboundant olives (wild or cultvated, cannot be determined). The evidence of fully developed crops clearly determines that it was not a local developement, at least fundamentally.

    3. No domestic cattle except for maybe pig and rabbit, which could well be wild animals (hard to differenciate).

    4. Several hundred years before the arrival of Cardium Pottery (old datations would be 6th milennium BCE, with c. 4700 BCE for Cardium only).

    Another important element here is the nfluence in other Iberian Areas, specially southern Portugal, where it would also precede Cardium (and be followed soon after by the oldest dolmenic megaliths known). Cardium instead is relatively rare in those areas and limited to scattered coastal regions and before this paper considered of later date.

    Cardium would still be the first Neolithic in all Eastern Iberia.

    Zilhao has been calling on several of his works for revision of old stratigraphies. This does not only affect the issue of Neolithic but also that of Aurignacian and Chatelperronian, where he got in a very ugly discussion with Mellars (who defended the old stratigraphies). I read the papers in that case and got the impresion that, no matter if he’s correct or not, Zilhao is very arrogant and does not mind entering the ugly field of personal disqualifications (i.e. insults).

    So I don’t really know how correct Zilhao may be. What I know is that I don’t admire his personality – and that makes me doubt of his conclusions until independent researchers confirm them.

  2. Ok. Read.

    Don’t know what to think. Zilhao might be a paladin of seriousness and method in an archaeological academy full of sloppery researchers but he could also be self-decieving when trying to fit complexities in the data (interstratification, anomalous older sequences) to a more simplistic model.

    I find odd that so many excavations appear to be plagued by such blunt and major errors and that only Zilhao superstar is challenging them. But maybe it’s a major problem of academy and these challenges are really revealing, putting things actually in its place.

    IMO this can only be solved by further independent research. A single man’s opinion, no matter how famous and strongly worded he may be, appears feeble against the diversity of the challenged resarchers. I’d like to read revisionist papers by others than just Zilhao (and his collaborators, like d’Errico) in order to accept his caveats and alternative simplified models fully.

  3. Btw, just noticed that now I can be updated via email on these discussions. Great, because I have probably missed some interesting exchanges before for lack of that feature. *thumbs up*

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