Skip to comments.Ancient farmers swiftly spread westward
Posted on 01/15/2011 7:18:08 AM PST by SunkenCiv
Croatia does not have a reputation as a hotbed of ancient agriculture. But new excavations, described January 7 in San Antonio at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America, unveil a Mediterranean Sea-hugging strip of southern Croatia as a hub for early farmers who spread their sedentary lifestyle from the Middle East into Europe.
Farming villages sprouted swiftly in this coastal region, called Dalmatia, nearly 8,000 years ago, apparently with the arrival of Middle Easterners already adept at growing crops and herding animals, says archaeologist Andrew Moore of Rochester Institute of Technology in New York...
Plant cultivation and animal raising started almost 8,000 years ago at Pokrovnik and lasted for close to a millennium, according to radiocarbon dating of charred seeds and bones from a series of occupation layers. Comparable practices at Danilo Bitinj lasted from about 7,300 to 6,800 years ago.
Other evidence supports a fast spread of sophisticated farming methods from the Middle East into Europe (SN: 2/5/05, p. 88), remarks Harvard University archaeologist Ofer Bar-Yosef. Farming villages in western Greece date to about 9,000 years ago, he notes. Middle Eastern farmers exploited a wide array of domesticated plants and animals by 10,500 years ago, setting the stage for a westward migration, Bar-Yosef says.
Other researchers began excavating Pokrovnik and Danilo Bitinj more than 40 years ago. Only Moore and his colleagues dug deep enough to uncover signs of intensive farming.
Their discoveries support the idea that agricultural newcomers to southern Europe built villages without encountering local nomadic groups, Moore asserts. Earlier excavations at Neolithic sites in Germany and France raise the possibility that hunter-gatherers clashed with incoming villagers in northern Europe, he notes.
(Excerpt) Read more at sciencenews.org ...
ANCIENT AGGIES Discoveries at two prehistoric farming villages in southern Croatia, including ceramic bowls and a partial female statuette, shown above, reflect a sophisticated culture of plant cultivation and animal herding much like that still practiced in the region today. [A. Moore]
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thus advancing early soil fertilization and conservation methods
now employed by the White House and EPA
The old tried and true method of planting in the spring and harvesting in the fall will surely change after global warming turns the planet into one big greenhouse.
Politically incorrect so it ain't so.
I dunno, the evidence seems pretty spotty to me....
At it's most primitive level of development, agriculture that involves planting seeds of specific plants, and husbanding specific resources useful to those plants can work provided there's a bit of water around ~ in areas that need not be much different than raw desert.
Hunting and gathering, however, require a MUCH MORE DEVELOPED environment with a mix of forests, glades, wide varieties of plants of all types good for diverse animals species, etc. In short, your basic desert is not terribly useful to hunters and gatherers ~ ask the Papago Indians about that ~ they were the FIRST to meet and greet the Spanish missionaries in California ~ and they quickly assimilated since they could easily see hunting for lizards and roots was a lot harder work than hanging around with a bunch of Catholic priests who seemed to know what they were doing, had nice clothes (from China no less), and who ate quite well. (NOTE: Only modern people suggest that moving from hunting and gathering to settled agriculture damaged the Papago people as "individuals". Sure, it destroyed their society, but if you want to go track down lizards for dinner, go to it eh).
Consider, the first Western Europeans out of the Franco/Spanish refugia headed due North securing prime "seal" hunting grounds all the way to the Arctic Ocean. Agriculture has yet to penetrate Northern Norway in fact, and the greater part of the population descends from the earliest hunter/gatherers to get there. (NOTE: gathering is rather limited to seaweed, lingonberries, moss and various roots which means the name of the game was primarily hunting with seal skin being the primary source of vitamin C.)
As the Ice Sheets withdrew they left behind grasslands or desert, but it took centuries for the full forest ecology to develop. The Middle Eastern agriculturalists could move into what were for that time "marginal lands" and prosper undisturbed!
This is consistent with events back in their Anatolian and Assyrian homelands. There the most ancient "temples" reveal that the locals seemed to not know anything about lions, sabertoothed tigers, or the sort of large game such critters need to survive. So far the biggest cat carving found seems to be that of something about the size of a bobcat or lynx.
The big dogs, so to speak, were off chasing game in the grasslands ~ and that's where our own hunter-gatherer ancestors tried to make a home.
The Sumerians who did the job were migratory pastoralists with great herds of sheep, goats, cattle and other animals.
They were replaced by Semites once all the heavy hauling had been done.
Agriculture was developed extensively in Syria (and along the Mediterranean Coast), Eastern Anatolia and later in Mesopotamia by the Semitic newcomers.
We are talking about thousands of years of work BTW ~ didn't happen overnight.
Oh, yes, the singular Semitic-speaking contribution to government was the creation of the First Nation ~ aka "Egypt". Not at all a casual undertaking and well worth praise, but even Egypt used a writing concept first developed by the Sumerians. East Asian developments lagged the West (meaning Mesopotamia and Eastern Mediterranean) by maybe a thousand years.
Recent discoveries in the Aleutians suggest that Japonica rice may well have been developed there first (along with the same heated floor/foundation system typical of ancient Korean settlements). Japonica was then taken to Asia by Aleuts and then propagated in China. Indicum was developed later along the upper reaches of the Ganges, but it's a separate species. American Indian "wild rice" is yet another group of species (somewhat related to Indicum and Japonica). As usual American Indians were developing many times more species of plants into useful agricultural products than Old World populations.
Egypt was not Semitic.
The Semites' biggest contributions to history have been the alphabet and the religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Farming villages sprouted swiftly in this coastal region, called Dalmatia, nearly 8,000 years ago
“I dunno, the evidence seems pretty spotty to me.... “
It does give one paws ...
Egypt was the first nation-state ~ the ALPHABET was derived from Egyptian hieroglyphics which were themselves based on the Sumerian hieroglyphics system.
The Phoenicians who lived along the Mediterranean coast between Egypt proper and Anatolia (and who had colonies all over the place) are usually credited with FORMAL development of the alphabet because they broke the letters completely away from their underlying meanings assigned in the age of hieroglyphic dominance.
Modern people are sometimes misled into thinking an alphabet is an "obvious invention", but it's not. Even a syllabary like those used by the Mayans, Koreans, Japanese or Cherokee isn't "obvious".
Hieroglyphic systems derive directly from the image of objects or the process applied to them by a man, animal or nature (wind, lightning, light). All such systems, once devised, are quickly modified to include agreed upon "shortcuts" ~ the current Chinese character systems are very difficult to understand without substantial instruction (about 8 years worth), but some people can pick their way through them with limited experience.
The original Chinese characters ~ called the Shan Dynasty Characters ~ are petty close to the original idea and can be expressed quite well in Plains (or Sioux) Indian sign language ~ (proving 1 of 2 things ~ either the Chinese origins of much of Plains Indians culture, or maybe the Plains Indians figured out how to get to the Old World in ancient times and founded civilization)
Sumerian hieroglyphs became quite stylized thereby facilitating the use of the cunuiform wedge ~ which allowed records to be made on mud tablets.
All writing forms on Earth appear to derive in one way or the other from the original discoveries in Mesopotamia.
Regarding Judaism, Christianity and Islam ~ Judaism began among the predecessors to the Hebrews in Mesopotamia ~ Ur in fact. Guy who started it off was named Abram. At the same time the most ancient Mesopotamian texts date back to a time long before Abram (now known as Abraham) and include many religious concepts reflected in the quite later Hebrew materials.
Although Abram was clearly a Semitic-speaker, his "followers" who accompanied him were drawn from the broad masses of Mesopotamia, and that MUST include the descendants of the same folks who used to make an idol of a dwarf with a tall conical hat and long beard. He rode a reindeer ~ they made reindeer too. That same figure was known all across the broad expanse of Northern Asia as well for many thousands of years.
Early Farmers Spotted in Dalmatia
Agriculture took thousands of years to spread within the Middle East itself.
The settlers here bringing in farming are right there at the water's edge of the Serbian refugia ~ but the original occupants already di-di'd out going North, East, West ~ and not Souf' to Dubrovnik where I think eventoday we find the European climactic zone line between growing flax and growing cotton (something to be checked soon since this is a very relevant ancient line that separated one type of culture from another).
The Sami wore dunce caps?
The Mediterranean currents and prevailing winds did have a nasty (?) habit of creating history.
There's some wild stuff in the world's most ancient literature ~ eric van danikenn doesn't hold a candle to those ol'boys.
Until the Sahara formed nobody wanted to spend the time taming the shores of the fairly wild Nile river.
We are just now beginning to research what was going on further West in what is now the Sahara. Earlier this morning I was in fact, reading an article about a lake as big as Erie that existed during the Ice Age out about 400 KM West of the Nile. There were smaller lakes much closer to the Nile that lasted down to Greco-Roman times.
As long as those lakes provided a good living the Nile Valley was not attractive. Still, the first settlements in Egypt came complete with large stone temples and advanced metal working technology
You know,if there was ever a prehistoric modern civilization that was similar to Plato’s Atlantis it would likely be buried by time below the dunes of the Sahara.
Has there ever been a comprehensive seismological sounding expedition done there to seek out any “lost” cities beneath the sands?
Thanks for this post.
Remember, the Great Western Desert of Egypt is just part of it, it is immense, and even that close to a base of operations it's still difficult to get in and out.
Plus, there are poisonous animals, poisonous plants, sandstorms, heat, cold and ever present human cockroaches of every kind.
The Egyptian government can also be a problem but more recently they've gotten an idea that it would be good to refill the Western Basin to give them a nice new lake that would change the local climate! Consequently they let folks go into the area to see what's there!
that might be a stretch based on the picture. why not a goat hoof?
If you want to get a good picture of what those old household idols were about check out this book by Julian James called “The Origin of Consciousness in the breakdown of the Bicameral Mind”
Basically James fills in the blanks left by Nietzsche. Nietzche was famous for among other things saying that philosophy comes in when religion/theology breaks down. He said this was the case of classical 5th -3rd century bc greeks.
But having said that, Nietzsche did go into more detail. What precisely came before—and why did it break down.
For one thing. He didn’t have the data.
For a really eye opening read —check out
Got that book for Christmas! Just read the intro and beginning the 1st chapter - very meaty!
The writer didn't go back in time far enough to find humans like he imagined.
Once we began dealing with the dead we were no longer bound up in the same sort of autistic spectrum disorders ~ e.g. Aspergers Syndrome ~ that seem to be the plight of even the highest animals ~ except maybe the cats ~ they do know death.
I think that it's not 20,000 years ago, but 400,000 years ago, 20 times further, that we need to look for the time when we no longer let the "voices" rule us. Then we turned things around and began running on our own symbolic images.
Myth of the Hunter-GathererOn September 19, 1997, the New York Times announced the discovery of a group of earthen mounds in northeastern Louisiana. The site, known as Watson Brake, includes 11 mounds 26 feet high linked by low ridges into an oval 916 feet long. What is remarkable about this massive complex is that it was built around 3400 B.C., more than 3,000 years before the development of farming communities in eastern North America, by hunter-gatherers, at least partly mobile, who visited the site each spring and summer to fish, hunt, and collect freshwater mussels... Social complexity cannot exist unless I it is supported by a productive subsistence economy.
by Kenneth M. Ames
Archaeology Volume 52 Number 5
Wow, good to see, that’s not a new title!
This was going on 5,000 years ago.
The article you reference is based on an earlier view that ALL domestication occurred in Central or South America ~ which is simply not true.
The Kentucky settled agriculturalists also developed numerous varieties of beans and squash ~ although those plants had been domesticated earlier in Central America. The deal is NEITHER have large numbers of effective pests in the Midwest.
It is debated whether the Chinese system had any input from the Middle East. There seems to be no direct descent, but it is possible the idea of writing made its way across Asia, but the Chinese writing goes WAY back, 4000 to 6000 years, so far that it is doubtful there was any connection across such a huge distance. Also the very ideas behind Chinese writing are completely different from those of Asia further west. More likely a completely independent invention.
It is almost certain the Meso-American writing systems of the Maya, Olmec, etc. were invented independently, and the textile-based quipu record-keeping of the Andean civilizations may just possibly have qualified as true "writing" if we could figure it out. If so, it would be a 4th independent invention of writing.
Quite a number of plants were independently domesticated in North America.
But it does not appear any of them produced enough food to significantly change the society of the time.
Unlike maize, when it came along, which created a population explosion and huge changes in society wherever it went.
Cahokia in 1200 was twice the size of London.
The fact that the Sheng and later ideographs, pictoglyphs and hieroglyphic sets incorporated pre-existing shamanistic symbols, or grave identifiers (to be talked about later), or totems ~ does not mean that those earlier symbols were part of an organized system of writing.
The Chinese make a lot of noise but they have yet to PROVE anything.
We can go back 5300 years quite easily to see that the Sumerians had an actual writing system ~ already developed ~ and we can go back another 5,000 years to trace in great detail how that system grew. That's back to the end, more or less, of the Younger Dryas. The Chinese had not yet developed a satisfactory mudhut at that time.
Sheng provides a character set comparable to the earliest materials written by the Sumerians ~ and uses the same characters in the same groupings ~ which is kind of a giveaway. Egyptian hieroglyphs and earlier pictoglyphs follow on Sumerian work.
I think beans, squash and corn ~ together ~ "the three sisters" ~ are recognized by everyone as foundational to all cultures in the Americas. Even today modern descendants of wealthy Europeans sit down to dinner to the exact same meals enjoyed by American Indians 5,000 years ago.
There are 4 major syllabaries. They are Korean (1300-1500 development stage), Japanese (stretches out of hundreds of years and begins in Asia), Mayan (probably also created by the same folks), and Cherokee (attributed to Sequoia but there are similar materials predating it among the same language group).
Students of Sumerian make a claim that even all American writing systems clearly derive from the systemS developed first in Sumer.
There is very little real evidence either way. It is possible the Chinese got the “idea” of writing from western Asia, and it is equally possible they came up with it independently. It seems to pop up whenever civilizations become sufficiently complex that record keeping becomes critical.
One possible exception is the Andean civilizations, which may actually be as old or even older than Sumer in the building of “cities.” If the quipu isn’t writing, they apparently never developed it at all, despite apparent trading contacts with Meso-America, which definitely did have writing.
If you can get your hands on an American Indian collection of hand "signs" you can go read just about any Chinese Shang Dynasty writing.
My understanding of he Qui-Pu is that it's part of a coded system that helps you recall oral messages. it's proved to be fairly impervious to any modern attempts at decoding. All you have to do is switch to viewing the Qui-Pu as a digital format "sign language" and it can probably be read. I'm simply not adept enough to try that but I think I can deal with most of the totemic symbol systems ~ which are more like STREET SIGNS and GRAVE MARKERS than they are generalized writing systems.
Ultimately ALL writing is based first on the normal parameters of the human body ~ and after that, the normal conditions of life.
And that shows up in Paleolithic China!
The trade routes were established early ~ not necessarily with stuff being carried by camels all the way from Syria to the Huang Ho, but at least in terms of ideas traded from area to area. Sumerian arrived in the Chinese core areas within a couple of centuries!
In later eras the Silk Road networked out the most energy efficient tracks, but at the time the idea of writing was being passed to the East the Silk Road was only a dream.
Hunter-gatherers clashing with western-moving agriculturalists is an age-old story.