NBIA Colloquium by Anvar Shukurov: The Neolithic revolution – Niels Bohr Institute - University of Copenhagen

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NBIA Colloquium by Anvar Shukurov: The Neolithic revolution

The Neolithic revolution: The spread of incipient farming across Eurasia,
its significance and mathematical interpretation

Anvar Shukurov

(Newcastle University)

The Neolithic, the last epoch of the Stone Age (10,000-3,000 BC) saw a fundamental change in human prehistory. With the arrival of the Neolithic, hunting and food gathering gave way to agriculture and stock breeding. The transition to food production has changed the humankind profoundly, leading to a sharp increase in the birth rate, sedentism, emergence of proto-urban and urban centres, development of complex social structures, exchange networks, etc. The modern man is essentially a product of the Neolithic. This transition was the result of human migration, or the transmission of cultural and technological innovations, or, more plausibly, a combination of these two basic phenomena. These processes, evidenced by radiocarbon dating, genetic and archaeological data, are consistent with basic models of mathematical population dynamics which indicate that the spread of farming across most of Eurasia started from a localized source in the Near East. However, farming was less important in the boreal Eastern Europe than in the rest of Europe; hence the 'boreal' and 'agricultural' Neolithic have distinct signatures. We use an advanced population dynamics model to suggest that this distinction can be attributed to the presence of two waves of advance, one from the Near East, and another from Northern Asia through Eastern Europe. The former is associated with both agriculture and pottery making, whereas the latter shows limited evidence of agriculture. Given its simplicity, the model provides a surprisingly good fit to the radiocarbon data. The incipient agriculture also spread eastwards from the Near East to give rise to the Indus Valley Civilization. We present our results of the first quantitative study of this connection.

Anvar Shukurov started his career under Ya. B. Zeldovich in the late sixties and joined the Academy of Sciences in Moscow in 1975. He is best known for his work on the Galactic Dynamo together with A. Ruzmaikin and D. Sokolloff. He has been a faculty member at Newcastle University since 1996 and held various visiting posts, for instance, at the MPIfR in Bonn, the CEA Saclay, or the NCAR in Boulder. Beyond his interest in astrophysical fluid dynamics, he has been the coordinator of the FP6 Research Project "The Formation of Europe: Prehistoric Population Dynamics and the Roots of Socio-Cultural Diversity" from 2006-2010.

Refreshments will be available in the NBIA lounge after the talk.