A Conversation on Agricultural Origins

  title={A Conversation on Agricultural Origins},
  author={Melinda A. Zeder and Bruce D. Smith},
  journal={Current Anthropology},
  pages={681 - 691}
Placed within a relatively informal and free-flowing context of “conversation,” this issue of Current Anthropology offers an opportunity to step outside of the strictures of formal scholarly discourse, with its requirements of lengthy supporting arguments and exhaustive literature citation and to debate, in a more relaxed fashion, what general form our explanations for agricultural origins should take. Our basic position as we join in this dialogue is that because of the rapid and still… 

Particularism and the retreat from theory in the archaeology of agricultural origins

This work argues why a coherent theory of human behavior that acknowledges its evolutionary history is essential to advancing understanding of OA and explains why this retreat from theory in favor of particularism is based on faulty beliefs that complex phenomena such as agricultural origins demand equally complex explanations.

Toward a theory of punctuated subsistence change

A deeper understanding of the interactions of a limited set of variables that control the size of attractors, such as population size, number of dry months, net primary productivity, and settlement fixity, provides new insights into the origin and spread of domesticated species in human economies.

The Origins of Agriculture: New Data, New Ideas

This introduction to the symposium and to this issue of Current Anthropology attempts to provide some sense of the topic, the meeting itself, the participants, and some of the initial results. Our

Material Culture, Landscapes of Action, and Emergent Causation

  • J. Robb
  • Political Science
    Current Anthropology
  • 2013
After a century of research, there is still no widely accepted explanation for the spread of farming in Europe. Top-down explanations stress climate change, population increase, or geographic

Les processus de néolithisation : socialiser la nature et naturaliser la société

Abstract The advent of food-producing economies – agricultural and pastoral – is indeed an important step in the evolution of human societies. A number of explanatory models have been devised to

Religion and the Revolution: The Legacy of Jacques Cauvin

Ten years after his passing, Jacques Cauvin’s revolutionary model of Near Eastern Neolithic emergence continues to shape the debate over the causes of this major transitional period. Cauvin’s radical

A Comparison of Niche Construction Theory and Diet Breadth Models as Explanatory Frameworks for the Initial Domestication of Plants and Animals

A side-by-side comparison of two alternative and antithetical explanatory frameworks for initial domestication based on diet breadth modeling and niche construction theory found to have a number of conceptual, theoretical, and methodological flaws.

Current perspectives and the future of domestication studies

It is argued that although recent progress has been impressive, the next decade will yield even more substantial insights not only into how domestication took place, but also when and where it did, and where and why it did not.

A Contextual Approach to the Emergence of Agriculture in Southwest Asia

The scale and nature of early cultivation are topics that have received relatively limited attention in research on the origins of agriculture. In Southwest Asia, one the earliest centers of origin

Things and the Slow Neolithic: the Middle Eastern Transformation

This paper argues that the search for an overarching explanation for the adoption of farming and settled life in the Middle East can be enhanced by a consideration of the dependencies between humans



Introduction: Rethinking the Origins of Agriculture

  • M. Cohen
  • Sociology
    Current Anthropology
  • 2009
The papers in this special section are revised contributions to one of the Conversations in the Disciplines funded by the State University of New York and the SUNY College at Plattsburgh, held in

The broad spectrum revisited: evidence from plant remains.

A collection of >90,000 plant remains, recently recovered from the Stone Age site Ohalo II (23,000 B.P.), Israel, offers insights into the plant foods of the late Upper Paleolithic, indicating that the BSR in the Levant was even broader than originally conceived.

Four Neglected Concepts with a Role to Play in Explaining the Origins of Agriculture

Full evolutionary analysis of the origins of agriculture entails concepts of risk, discounting, economies of scale, and transaction costs, and their use in anthropology will require that the history of economic substantivism is tempered with recognition that certain concepts forged to understand market economies are applicable much more broadly.

Behavioral Ecology and the Transition to Agriculture

This innovative volume is the first collective effort by archaeologists and ethnographers to use concepts and models from human behavioral ecology to explore one of the most consequential transitions

The food crisis in prehistory. Overpopulation and the origins of agriculture

The authors of this monumental work are aiming at a wide audience ranging from the Egyptologist to the inquisitive general reader. For the latter there is a general introduction concerning Ancient

Documenting Domestication: New Genetic and Archaeological Paradigms

This groundbreaking volume for the first time brings together leading archaeologists and biologists working on the domestication of both plants and animals to consider a wide variety of archaeological and genetic approaches to tracing the origin and dispersal of domesticates.

Foraging, Farming, and Social Complexity in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic of the Southern Levant: A Review and Synthesis

The transition from foraging to farming of the Neolithic periods is one of, if not, the most important cultural processes in recent human prehistory. Integrating previously published archaeological

The Origins of Agriculture in the Near East

  • M. Zeder
  • Environmental Science
    Current Anthropology
  • 2011
The emerging picture of plant and animal domestication and agricultural origins in the Near East is dramatically different from that drawn 16 years ago, with a more pluralistic view that sees domestication of various crops and livestock occurring across the entire region.

Initial formation of an indigenous crop complex in eastern North America at 3800 B.P

Rather than marking either an abrupt developmental break or a necessary response to population-packing or compressed resource catchments, the coalescence of an initial crop complex in ENA appears to reflect an integrated expansion and enhancement of preexisting hunting and gathering economies that took place within a context of stable long-term adaptation to resource-rich river valley settings.