Out of Asia: a new framework for dating the spread of agriculture in Europe

Key points:

  • Radiocarbon dating of ancient crop remains from early European archaeological sites;
  • Maps the temporal and geographic spread of crops across Europe.

This project, in collaboration with the School of Mathematics and Statistics (University of Sheffield), investigated the timing and routes of the spread of agriculture from its point of arrival in south-east Europe across the continent to north-west Europe. Many of the pre-existing radiocarbon dates for the spread of agriculture in Europe were primarily derived from wood charcoal collected from sites classified as Neolithic on the basis of cultural remains.

This project focused on directly dating crop remains, the products of agriculture, from as many early agriculture sites in Europe as possible. This part of the project is now complete and the improved dataset is being analysed using Bayesian statistics to establish the likely routes of agricultural spread and the rate of spread in different geographic areas. This will address the issue of whether or not there were delays in the spread of crops in, for example, the Alpine Foreland and North European Plain. These patterns of spread will be interpreted in relation to geographic, topographic, vegetational and cultural mapping conducted as part of the project.

Funded by: NERCnerc-logo
Grant Period: 2008 - 2011
Grant Holder: Prof G. Jones, Dr M. Charles (Sheffield, Archaeology), Prof C. Buck and Prof P. Blackwell (Sheffield, Mathematics and Statistics).
Researchers: Dr S. College, Angela Walker, Dr E. Forster (Sheffield, Archaeology).