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Archaeological Approaches to Agricultural Economies

Abstract

While agricultural origins have been recently revised in light of new genetic and archaeological evidence, parallel synthesis of subsequent developments in agricultural economies has lagged. This review summarizes recent advances in archaeological theory and method that contribute to an enhanced understanding of agricultural economies. Such advances address topics of persistent interest, including agricultural innovation, the introduction of new domesticates, risk and resilience, agricultural scaling, and the economic and environmental consequences of agricultural practices. Although points of complementarity and tension exist among varied contemporary discourses on agriculture, frameworks of resilience and entanglement offer particularly promising avenues for regional synthesis and worldwide comparison of agricultural economies.

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Acknowledgments

The ideas for this article have been developed over several years and many conversations with a large number of colleagues. I thank in particular Christine Hastorf, who invited me to participate in a session at the 2015 Society for American Archaeology Annual Meeting, where I first shared some ideas regarding intersections among behavioral ecology, niche construction, and resilience; and Catherine Pratt, who hosted me at the University of Western Ontario for a symposium in 2019, where I had the opportunity to develop my thoughts on entanglement. I completed this article while a visiting scholar at the Archaeology Center at Stanford University; I thank its director, Ian Hodder, for hosting me at the center and for productive discussions on agricultural entanglements. I thank Melissa Rosenzweig and Shanti Morell-Hart for useful feedback on early drafts of this manuscript, five anonymous reviewers for their incisive and constructive critiques, Gary Feinman for considerable editorial guidance, and Linda Nicholas for a keen editorial eye. Their comments have dramatically improved the focus, clarity, and organization of this article. Most of all, I thank the community of scholars whose work is cited here for having produced such a rich academic dialogue on agriculture.

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Marston, J.M. Archaeological Approaches to Agricultural Economies. J Archaeol Res 29, 327–385 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10814-020-09150-0

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Keywords

  • Agriculture
  • Agricultural decision making
  • Political economy
  • Innovation
  • Environmental change
  • Resilience