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Revolution reloaded: risk and sustainability in the first agricultural expansion in Europe (sixth-fourth millennia BCE)

starting December 2017

Nearly half of the planet's land surface is used currently to cultivate crops and to raise livestock for food. The cultural and ecological consequences of humanity’s reliance on domestic plants and animals are profound, recent research showing that the first signature of anthropogenic land-cover and climate change can be detected both regionally and globally as early as 7000 years ago. Being one of the core questions of archaeology, often referred to as the “Neolithic” or “Agricultural” Revolution, domestication has been the subject of an enormous body of literature. Where, when and why people first began to transform plants and animals into domesticates are captivating questions. However, it is the ability of farmers to bring these species from the core areas of domestication into new environments that accounts for the profound global success of agriculture as a mode of subsistence. Agricultural expansions entail adjustments in the complex webs of dependencies between the abiotic environment, the natural ecosystem, the genetically controlled biological requirements of the domestic plants and animals, the human practices of management and manipulation, and the underlying social and cultural networks. Particularly suited for exploring these issues is the early farming system of Southwest Asia, standing out from other initial centres by its multi-species combination of crops and livestock and its fast latitudinal expansion across a series of bioclimatic zones. Southwest-Asian-style farming was brought between 6000 and 4000 BCE by colonist farmers into a range of different environments in Europe, to which many of the southwest Asian domestic plants and animals were exotic. The moving agricultural frontiers across Europe, and the challenges faced by the farmer communities inhabiting them, are the subject of this project.

PD Dr. Maria Ivanova

Maria Ivanova’s research area includes the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods of Eastern and southeastern Europe, with a particular focus on ancient technology, spheres of exchange, and the transmission of innovations. Since 2013 Ivanova has been conducting research on the farming transition in the Balkans and in the Carpathian Basin, the main corridors for the introduction of plant cultivation and animal herding from Anatolia into Europe. She has been teaching European Prehistory at the University of Heidelberg since 2007 on a variety of topics including prehistoric technology, agricultural origins, pottery, archaeology of violence, and archaeological theory.