Early Agriculture on Islands

I found this article interesting. As you’re presumably aware, the earliest known sedentary agricultural communities began to spring up a little less than 12,000 years ago—roughly 9,500 BCE. Until very recently the oldest known sedentary agricultural community in the Mediterranean was nearly a millennium younger. However, recently they’ve found an older site on Cyprus:

Sedentary villagers of the Early Neolithic began cultivating wild grains in the Middle East in about 9500 BCE. Recent discoveries have shown that the island of Cyprus was visited by human groups during that period, but until now the earliest traces of cereal crops and the construction of villages did not predate 8400 BCE. The latest findings from the archaeological excavations of Klimonas indicate that organized communities were built in Cyprus between 9100 and 8600 BCE: the site has yielded the remnants of a half-buried mud brick communal building, 10 meters in diameter and surrounded by dwellings, that must have been used to store the village’s harvests. The archaeologists have found a few votive offerings inside the building, including flint arrowheads and green stone beads. A great many remnants of other objects, including flint chips, stone tools and shell adornments, have been discovered in the village. The stone tools and the structures erected by these early villagers resemble those found at Neolithic sites from the same period on the nearby continent. Remains of carbonized seeds of local plants and grains introduced from the Levantine coasts (including emmer, one of the first Middle Eastern wheats) have also been found in Klimonas.

This isn’t entirely surprising since islands provide excellent environments for the development of agriculture. The tidal pools initially provide readily available shellfish and shallow water fish which, in turn, produces the population pressures and over-utilization that makes the adoption of a sedentary lifestyle more attractive. Pressures from other competing groups can be countered by moving. Or driving them off. Population pressures from your own group might lead to the adoption of a sedentary agrarian habit. The comparatively benign climate doesn’t hurt, either.

0 comments… add one

Leave a Comment