The Spread of Farming in the Eastern Adriatic

Article excerpt


Great strides have been made in our understanding of the spread of farming in Europe, most recently through the integration and comparison of archaeological, linguistic and genetic evidence (e.g. Bellwood & Renfrew 2002; Ammerman & Biagi 2003), through the characterisation of human diets and population movements by studying stable isotopes in human bones (e.g. Milner et al. 2004; Richards et al. 2003; Price et al. 2002), and through the refinement of theoretical models (e.g. Price 2000; Thomas 1999; Whittle 1996, 2003). Alongside and underlying many of these advances are the ever-accumulating results of field projects.

However, even though the eastern Adriatic coast lies along a major route into Central Europe from the south-east, our state of knowledge about the spread of farming in the region remains relatively undeveloped. Even maps offering quite sophisticated models for the spread of farming into Europe can leave the eastern Adriatic region blank (Barker 1985: Figure 21; Renfrew 1987; Whittle 1996: Figure 8.2; Tringham 2000: Figure 2.1; Zvelebil & Lillie 2000: Figure 3.1) or merge it with one of the neighbouring regions (e.g. Zvelebil & Lillie 2000: Figure 3.4). Both approaches, we suspect, are a consequence of researchers not being familiar with the (admittedly meagre) data that are available from this region. In this brief paper, we hope to put the eastern Adriatic region 'on the map' through a systematic review of the available evidence and the presentation of a new model of the spread of farming in the region (Figure 1).


Models for the transition to farming in the Eastern Adriatic

The transition to farming in Europe has been explained by a wide variety of models ranging from a completely autochthonous process where local foragers turn to farming, to a completely exogenous process where foreign farmers migrate into Europe and replace the indigenous population (Barker 1985; Price 2000; Perles 2001). Claims for a completely independent domestication of plants and animals in Early Neolithic Europe have been thoroughly refuted on genetic (Jones 2002: 94, 107, 130), morphological (Zohary 1996: 143-4; Rowley-Conwy 1995) and taphonomic grounds (Zilhao 1993). At the other end of the theoretical spectrum, models that rely primarily on migrating farmers to explain the transition to the Neolithic, for example the 'wave of advance model' of Ammerman and Cavalli-Sforza (1973, 1984), are now thought to underestimate the contribution of Mesolithic foragers to the process, whether considered in terms of the modern-day gene pool (e.g. Richards et al. 1996, 2002; Jones 2002: 160-1) or the indigenous adoption and transmission of parts of the 'Neolithic package' (e.g. Zvelebil 1986, 2002; Price 2000; Tringham 2000; Zilhao 2000). The Mesolithic-Neolithic transition can no longer be considered in terms of a simple dichotomy between indigenous adoption and foreign migration.

The major domestic plants and animals were introduced into Europe at the start of the Neolithic. Since the crops could not have spread naturally into Europe, and the domestic animals are very unlikely to have done so, we must consider at least some form of population transfer. Zvelebil and Lillie (2000: 62) have recently listed six different forms of population transfer that may have been important in the transition to agriculture in Europe: demic diffusion, folk migration, elite dominance, infiltration, leapfrog colonisation and individual frontier mobility. We use these processes to frame our discussion of the transition to farming in the Eastern Adriatic; their definition and archaeological signatures are listed in Table 1.

Much of the Adriatic literature still tends to see population change--that is, migration--lurking behind every major change in pottery style, let alone the introduction of the earliest pottery (e.g. Benac 1979-1987; Dimitrijevic et al. …