ARCHAEOLOGY: Climate and Farming

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Science  03 Aug 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5531, pp. 763d
DOI: 10.1126/science.293.5531.763d

Agriculture evidently arose in several societies after the beginning of the Holocene, about 10,000 years ago, even though many earlier Pleistocene societies were quite sophisticated. Richerson et al. offer an overview of what is known of the development of agriculture in different societies and propose that sustainable agriculture was impossible during the Pleistocene but compulsory during the Holocene. They argue that the climate during the Pleistocene was incompatible with agriculture; globally, it was drier and dustier, and large shifts in climate were frequent enough to inhibit cultural evolution (from hunting-gathering to farming). In contrast, during the more stable, wet, and warmer climate of the Holocene, population pressure would create feedback that catalyzed the development of agriculture. They present numerical models to support their comparisons between the pace of cultural change and climate variation. — BH

Am. Antiq. 66, 387 (2001).

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