Climatic Change

, Volume 59, Issue 3, pp 333–367

A Global Dynamic Model for the Neolithic Transition

  • Kai W. Wirtz
  • Carsten Lemmen

DOI: 10.1023/A:1024858532005

Cite this article as:
Wirtz, K.W. & Lemmen, C. Climatic Change (2003) 59: 333. doi:10.1023/A:1024858532005


During the Holocene strong gradients in the distribution of technologyincluding subsistence ways emerged on a global scale.These patterns were further amplified in historic times and are stillvisible through worldwide differences in national wealth.In order to evaluate major factors responsible for the shift fromforaging to food production we here employ quantitative methods bydeveloping a deterministic but simple model. After compiling existing maps of potential vegetation at 5000 BP theinhabited world is split into 197 regions with homogeneous environmentalconditions. Suitable variables for the macro-economic and culturaldevelopment in the Neolithic period are found to be farming to hunting-gatheringratio, number of agricultural economies and a technological development index.The model explicitly describes economic adaptation, growth and migrationof human populations together with the spread of their cultural characteristics; it accounts for over-exploitation of natural resources, crowdingmortality and the climate variability on a millennium scale.In a thorough model validation region specific trajectories are compared toarchaeological evidence revealing a high correspondence. Major parts of the knownsequence of Neolithic centers including the timing differences are robustlyreproduced. A series of known problems in prehistory is discussedcomprising the lag between domestication and full scale farming, the off-levelingof the technological boost following the transition, the emergence ofdistinct migration waves and sensitivity to climate fluctuations.Not mere population pressure but continuous innovation and competition betweensubsistence strategies is identified as a prime mover of agricultural development.The results suggest that few aspects of biogeography may have determined theobserved continental gradients in the number of domesticable species ultimatelyleading to an increasing differentiation in technology and demography.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kai W. Wirtz
    • 1
  • Carsten Lemmen
    • 1
  1. 1.WG Mathematical Modeling Institute for the Marine EnvironmentUniversity of OldenburgOldenburgGermany

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