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MC8.1 Society and Innovation

Society and Innovation: The ”Secondary Products Revolution” between Mesopotamia and Central Europe

Coordination: Joseph Maran, Peter A. Miglus


Some 30 years ago Andrew Sherratt (1981) has advanced the hypothesis that the 4th millennium BCE in parts of Europe and Asia was accompanied by an economic upheaval of equal importance than the one brought about by the “Neolithic Revolution”. Radiating from the early Mesopotamian city-states as centers of innovation, the “primary” usage of products of slain domestic animals (cf. meat, bones, skin, sinews) known since the beginning of the Neolithic, he argued, was expanded by a whole range of previously unknown, so-called secondary products provided by living animals, namely milk, wool and power used for riding, plowing, transport and traction. As a consequence of this “Secondary Products Revolution” (SPR) animals like the horse and the donkey were domesticated and wheeled vehicles as well as the plow invented. In contrast to previous discussions of the SPR that have revolved around clarifying the origins of its different components and that have oscillated between the poles of a “monocentric” vs. a “polycentric” invention (Maran 2004; Burmeister 2004), this subproject focused on the conditions facilitating the quick spreading of the different traits of the SPR and on the reasons for the strikingly different results of the appropriation of these traits by societies.



Joseph Maran
Peter A. Miglus

Group members

Kristina Sauer