Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


10 January 2015

Mobility and migration in the Early Neolithic of the Mediterranean: questions of motivation and mechanism

Thomas P. Leppard World Archaeology 46:4 (2014), 484-501


The spread of the Neolithic throughout Mediterranean Europe involved, at least to some degree, the physical movement of farmers westwards. This mobility has often been attributed to demographic or climatic factors, and long-term environmental changes of this type surely provided the backdrop against which subsistence practices and behavioral strategies developed. However, changing environmental parameters, while posing challenges to established Early Neolithic farming regimes, did not in and of themselves establish mobility and migration as self-selecting solutions to increased social pressure; we do not fully understand how these pressures were experienced at the level of the individual, the family or the village. This article suggests that embedded Early Neolithic cultural attitudes to subsistence and surplus – and in particular the tension between incentives to hoard and imperatives to share – rendered Early Neolithic communities fragile, with tendencies to fission. It is further argued that oscillations in drought frequency during the seventh millennium bc may have made mobility an increasingly attractive adaptive strategy in the face of intra-community tensions. Throughout, emphasis is placed on human responses to change as mediated through culturally specific circumstances.


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