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The introduction and spread of the Neolithic “way of life” in Europe was a process that took several millennia, followed by different rhythms and displayed singularities in each geographic area. It was therefore a very complex phenomenon that, despite highly significant advances in research in recent decades, is yet to be fully understood. To deepen our understanding of the very early stages of the introduction of herding and agriculture throughout the Old Continent, the 1st Conference on the Early Neolithic of Europe was organised in Barcelona on 6–8 November 2019. The conference was a great success with more than 200 participants, creating a stimulating arena to discuss and debate, exclusively, the transition to the Neolithic in Europe. This special issue brings together 52 of the contributions presented in Barcelona, offering an interesting overview of the current state of research across Europe, from the Anatolia to the Algarve, highlighting the geographical, chronological and socioeconomic diversity of the transformation processes involved in the Neolithisation of Europe and providing useful starting points for future research.
Ferran Borrell*, Ignacio Clemente, Miriam Cubas, Juan José Ibáñez,
Niccoló Mazzucco, Ariadna Nieto-Espinet, Marta Portillo, Silvia Valenzuela-Lamas,
Xavier Terradas
From Anatolia to Algarve: Assessing the
Early Stages of Neolithisation Processes
in Europe
received February 19, 2022; accepted March 28, 2022
Abstract: The introduction and spread of the Neolithic way of lifein Europe was a process that took
several millennia, followed by dierent rhythms and displayed singularities in each geographic area. It was
therefore a very complex phenomenon that, despite highly signicant advances in research in recent
decades, is yet to be fully understood. To deepen our understanding of the very early stages of the intro-
duction of herding and agriculture throughout the Old Continent, the 1st Conference on the Early Neolithic
of Europe was organised in Barcelona on 68 November 2019. The conference was a great success with more
than 200 participants, creating a stimulating arena to discuss and debate, exclusively, the transition to the
Neolithic in Europe. This special issue brings together 52 of the contributions presented in Barcelona,
oering an interesting overview of the current state of research across Europe, from the Anatolia to the
Algarve, highlighting the geographical, chronological and socioeconomic diversity of the transformation
processes involved in the Neolithisation of Europe and providing useful starting points for future research.
Keywords: Early Neolithic, Neolithisation, Europe, Neolithic package
1 Introduction
The study of the origins and consolidation of farming in the Near East and its subsequent diusion
throughout the western Mediterranean basin and continental Europe in the ninthfth millennia cal. BC
represents a major eld of research within Earth, Environmental and Social Sciences. The rst reason is that
the Neolithic was a period of crucial change that irrevocably altered both social interaction between and
within communities (new settlement patterns, increasing sedentarisation and territoriality, complex
exchange networks, etc.)and the relationship of people with the natural world. In this sense, some authors
* Corresponding author: Ferran Borrell, Departamento de Arqueología y Antropología, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones
Cientícas (IMF-CSIC), Barcelona, Spain, e-mail:
Ignacio Clemente, Juan José Ibáñez, Marta Portillo, Silvia Valenzuela-Lamas, Xavier Terradas: Departamento de Arqueología y
Antropología, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientícas (IMF-CSIC), Barcelona, Spain
Miriam Cubas: Departamento de Historia y Filosofía (Prehistoria), Universidad de Alcalá, Madrid, Spain
Niccoló Mazzucco: Dipartimento di Civiltà e Forme del Sapere, Università di Pisa, Pisa, Italy
Ariadna Nieto-Espinet: Departament dHistòria, Universitat de Lleida, Lleida, Spain
Special issue: THE EARLY NEOLITHIC OF EUROPE, edited by F. Borrell, I. Clemente, M. Cubas, J. J. Ibáñez, N. Mazzucco,
A. Nieto-Espinet, M. Portillo, S. Valenzuela-Lamas, & X. Terradas.
Open Archaeology 2022; 8: 287295
Open Access. © 2022 Ferran Borrell et al., published by De Gruyter. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons
Attribution 4.0 International License.
consider it the beginning of an increasing process of environmentally transformative use of landscapes and
long-term alteration of global patterns of biodiversity, ecosystem functioning and climate (e.g. Stephens
et al., 2019). Others list agriculture in the top ve human developments with the greatest impact on the
planets biosphere, together with the use of re, language, the emergence of states and the more recent use
of fossil fuels (e.g. Takács-Sánta, 2004). Another factor to consider is that the emergence of farming
societies in the Levantine region of southwest Asia around 11000 cal. BC constitutes the earliest of a series
of independent centres of domestication of plants and animals that emerged in dierent parts of the world
during a relatively short period of time between 12000 and 2000 years ago (e.g. Bar-Yosef, 2017). Moreover,
it was in the Levant that many of the most economically signicant animal (goat, sheep, cattle and pig)and
plant (einkorn, emmer, barley, lentil, chickpea and fava bean)species for humanity were domesticated,
species that remain important even in todays economy. Accordingly, the dissemination of Neolithic inno-
vations and movement of domesticated plants and animals from the Levant into Anatolia and, subse-
quently, through continental Europe and the Mediterranean basin constitutes the rst case in the world
of the wide-scale diusion of the new way of life out of the innovation area.
Given the above-mentioned uniqueness of both processes, the emergence and adoption of plant
farming and animal husbandry in the Near East and the Neolithisation of the Old Continent have benetted
from intense and continued research since the early 20th century, when the term Neolithic Revolution
was coined (Childe, 1936), with a series of major contributions from both Near Eastern and European
prehistorians, which have, interestingly, approached the topic through very dierent perspectives and
disciplines (e.g. Ammerman & Cavalli-Sforza, 1971, 1984; Arbuckle et al., 2014; Bar-Yosef & Belfer-Cohen,
1989; Bocquet-Appel & Bar-Yosef, 2008; Cauvin, 1994; Cavalli-Sforza, Menozzi, & Piazza, 1993, 1994; Chikhi,
Destro-Bisol, Bertorelle, Pascali, & Barbujani, 1998; Childe, 1968; Clark, 1965; College, Conolly, & Shennan,
2004; Gronenborn, 1999; Hodder, 1990; Lev-Yadun,Gopher,&Abbo,2000zdoğan, 1997, 2011; Perlès, 2001;
Pinhasi, Thomas, Hofreiter, Currat, & Burger, 2012; Rowley-Conwy, 2011; Simmons, 2007; Vigne et al., 2012;
Willcox, 2013; Zeder, 2008; Zilhão, 2011).
Several decades of intense research, and sometimes also intense debates (e.g. colonisationvs indi-
genism), have improved our understanding and come to a broad consensus about the major aspects of the
Neolithisation process/es in Europe. In this sense, there is an agreement that the diusion of Neolithic
innovations across Europe, from the Aegean to Britain, took about 2500 years (65004000 cal. BC), with
some regions being reached a little later, around 3500 cal. BC (e.g. the Baltic region)and yet others with a
signicant delay (e.g. the Pannonian plain). It is equally agreed that no independent domesticationof animals
or plants took place in Neolithic Europe. Accordingly, all Neolithic crops and domesticated animals circu-
lating in Europe were originally domesticated in southwest Asia and, second, they did not arrive by means of
trade or exchange but by the initial migration or the colonisation of farmers and shepherds from the Near East
via Western Anatolia, in many cases coexisting and interacting with local Mesolithic groups. In the initial
stages (from the Levant to Central Anatolia and then to southeast Europe), people and domestic animals and
plants moved along dierent land routes as well as by sailing along the Mediterranean shores westward. The
diusion of Neolithic innovations generally took place in a leap-frogpattern, prioritising fertile alluvial soils
and bypassing mountainous areas. It is also widely agreed that communities migrating from the Near East
introduced not only domesticated species (although this was a major element)but also a set of technologies,
symbolic behaviours and beliefs, often referred to as the Neolithic Package,combining the reality and
ideology of the subsistence economy, with the greater symbolic value given to domesticated resources than to
those from the natural or wild environment. However, it is also generally accepted that not all the elements of
the Neolithic Packageare always found in the dierent regions of Europe during the early stages of the
Neolithisation process and that signicant regional variability sometimes includes the exploitation of wild
resources, depending on the environmental variability.
In conclusion, archaeological research has produced a vast amount of data to understand to a certain
extent both the broad picture of the Neolithisation process in Europe and its regional and local variations.
However, studies have also highlighted greater complexity of the historical process of the spread of farming
than hitherto considered and identied a plethora of regional, sub-regional and local scenarios taking place
within the main westwards diusion. This increasing diversity is yet to be fully dened, understood and
288 Ferran Borrell et al.
incorporated into the main picture as a key element to rene our understanding of the Neolithisation
processes at all scales (from continental to local)and be able to answer key questions that are still debated
or unanswered. Some of these are the number, nature, rhythm and speed and scales of the agricultural
wave/s of advance and their corresponding chronological aspects, the possibility of reverse movements, the
relative degrees of demic and cultural diusion, the percentage of contribution of early Near Eastern
farmers to the European gene pool, the interaction with (and contribution of)Mesolithic populations in
the development of the early stages of the Neolithisation in regions where they coexisted, the identication
of the area in the Near East from which the initial spread began, redenition of the Neolithic Packagein
each geographic area and a long etcetera. Because of this and given the need for a specic international
academic forum in which to debate, exchange, discuss, integrate and synthetise at micro-regional, regional
and continental scales, the increasing and increasingly complex data, the Archaeology of Social Dynamics¹
Research Unit of the Spanish National Research Council in Barcelona (CSIC)resolved to organise the 1st
Conference on the Early Neolithic of Europe(Figure 1), exclusively devoted to the study of the early stages
of Neolithisation in the continent and neighbouring regions.
2 The 1st Conference on the Early Neolithic of Europe (ENE-2019)
The ENE-2019 conference took place in the Museu Marítim³ in Barcelona on 68 November 2019 (Figure 2).
The meeting was preceded on the 5th November afternoon by a seminar Sea and Navigation in Neolithic
Timeswith two guest speakers: Catherine Perlès(Université Paris Nanterre, France)and Mario Mineo
Figure 1: Organising Committee of the 1st Conference on the Early Neolithic of Europe at the Editorial CSIC
stand during the
1Archaeology of Social Dynamics (ASD)is a research Unit of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)hosted at the Mila y
Fontanals Institute (IMF-CSIC, Barcelona), which is recognised and funded by the Departament de Cultura of the Generalitat de
Catalunya (SGR-2017-995).
3The Maritime Museum of Barcelona is a space for interpreting and sharing Catalan maritime culture in a way that is
innovative, participative and in touch with society and the country through research, conservation and the protection of our
heritage. It seeks to be a point of reference for Mediterranean maritime culture, open and accessible to society as a whole, an
entity that works in cooperation with people and organisations. Given the Mediterranean accent on the topic of the ENE-2019
Conference and the conuent objectives of the Museu Marítim and the CSIC, collaboration was established between the two
institutions for the celebration of the meeting.
4Title: Neolithic and the Sea.
5Title: Sea as a pathway of spread of Neolithic populations in the Mediterranean: La Marmotta (Italy), a village on the edge of
the agricultural frontier.
Assessing the Early Stages of Neolithisation Processes in Europe 289
(Museo Delle Civiltà/Museo Nazionale Preistorico Etnograco L. Pigorini,Italy), which ended with a
reception in the Museu Marítim.
Themeetingwasorganisedinninethematic sessions, some occupying a full day and others a half day, and
each one introduced by a short keynote lecture from a member of the Scientic Committee that chaired the session:
Neolithic spread and supra-regional interactions (Chair: Catherine Perlès, Université Paris Nanterre,
Chronology and modelling (Chair: Stephen Shennan, University College London, United Kingdom).
Humanenvironment interaction (Chair: Jean-François Berger, Université Lumière Lyon, France).
Population characteristics and dynamics (Chair: Mattias Jakobsson, Uppsala Universitet, Sweden).
Territory and settlement (Chair: Daniela Hofmann, University of Hamburg, Germany).
Subsistence (Chair: Sarah McClure, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA).
Technological processes (Chair: Annelou van Gijn, Universiteit Leiden, The Netherlands).
Funerary practices (Chair: Christian Jeunesse, Université de Strasbourg, France).
Symbolism (Chair: Goce Naumov, University Goce Delcev, Macedonia).
Figure 2: Inauguration of the meeting by the authorities (b), keynote lecture of the Neolithic spread and supraregional
interactionssession by Catherine Perlès (a)and oral presentation by Bogdana Milic in the parallel session Technological
processeschaired by A. van Gijn (c).
290 Ferran Borrell et al.
Given the enthusiastic response to the call for abstracts launched in October 2018 and considering that
all participants should be given the possibility to make an oral presentation, it was decided that two
sessions would run in parallel for 3 days. In addition, the duration of each communication was reduced
from the initial 20 to 12 min.
The Early Neolithic Conference in Barcelona was a great success with more than 200 attendees of all
ages, from 27 countries. They gave 116 oral presentations and 45 poster presentations. It was equally
satisfying that this wide array of presentations covered almost all the geographic regions of Europe (30
countries), from western Anatolia and the Volga to the Iberian Peninsula and northern Morocco and from
Scandinavia to the Mediterranean basin (Figure 3). The topics, scope and chronology of the presentations
were also very varied. They ranged from contextualised local case studies to broad multidisciplinary pan-
regional/inter-regional syntheses, while the topics varied from subsistence strategies, dierent aspects of
the material culture (e.g. pottery, lithic tools, architecture features)and settlement patterns to funerary
practices, to mention only some of them. C. Perlès closed the conference, highlighting the main achieve-
ments and novelties, as well as establishing the lines of research that should be consolidated in the near
future. In addition, a short review with the main scientic outcomes of the meeting was published soon
after the conference, summarising the main results, conclusions and novelties of the studies presented
during the meeting and, second, the new perspectives of Neolithic research in Europe (Perlès, 2020).
During the afternoon of the second day of the meeting, a 1:30 h Poster Presentation took place, and in the
evening of the same day, all participantswere invited to another social event at the Archaeological Museum of
Catalonia, which included a guided visit to the permanent exhibition of the Museum and a reception.
The Conference came to a close in the late afternoon of 9th November. It was agreed that the Early
Neolithic of Europe Conference should have continuity in the next few years, as a unique tool for exchange
of data/ideas and social interaction between scholars to facilitate the study of a process that in the eyes of
all attendees is clearly much more complex and varied than hitherto thought. Accordingly, and after
consulting with colleagues from dierent institutions, it was decided that the next meeting would be
held in Zagreb (Croatia),in34 years.
In addition, all the conference attendees were given free access to the exhibition The Neolithic
Revolution. La Draga, the hamlet of wonders,”⁶ which was displayed at the CSIC Residence of Researchers
in Barcelona until 17 November 2019.
3 Publication in Open Archaeology Journal
During the preparation of the conference, it was decided that all participants would be given the possibility
to publish their contributions as part of the publication process of the conference proceedings. After a
meeting with Katarzyna Michalak from Open Archaeology, it was decided that the publication of the
contributions would take place in that journal, a peer-reviewed open-access journal published by De
Gruyter. The characteristics of the journal: open access and a systematised submission method (Editorial
Manager)and a strict external peer-review system, guaranteed the high-quality publication of the con-
ference proceedings and the wide free availability and dissemination of the results.
The publication of the conference proceedings has obviously been delayed by the emergence of the
COVID-19 pandemic soon after the meeting in Barcelona, aecting both authors and the editors in multiple
ways. In certain cases, it has unfortunately impeded the publication of some of the contributions presented
at the meeting. However, in spite of all diculties, a total of 52 articles have been nally published in this
journal as a Special Issue titled The Early Neolithic of Europe,with most papers appearing in Volume 7,
Issue 1 (2021)and a few, including this editorial, in Volume 8, Issue 1 (2022). All of them are available on
6La Draga is a unique waterlogged Early Neolithic site in northern Catalonia (Spain)dating to around 7400 years ago where
many well-preserved implements and utensils in wood and other organic matters have been found.
Assessing the Early Stages of Neolithisation Processes in Europe 291
the publisher (De Gruyter)s website ( and https:// papers were reviewed by two external referees and in
case of strong disagreement between them, two more were contacted.
Despite the signicant reduction in the number of published contributions compared to the total oral
and poster contributions presented at the meeting, the special issue retains both the geographic (20
countries)and thematic diversity that characterised the meeting in Barcelona (Figure 4)and which can
be considered one of the main outcomes of the conference and, accordingly, the publication.
4 Concluding Remarks
The general feeling during and after the Barcelona meeting is that, with the eort of both organisers and
participants in the conference, we had succeeded in creating a most needed and stimulating medium for
academic debate and exchange of information between scholars who, given the wide geographical and
chronological span of the conference topic (Early Neolithic of Europe)and its complexity and diversity,
might not have met (and debated)easily otherwise. Both the presentations and the articles nally published
constitute an impressive sum of new data, new approaches, new ideas and, obviously, new problems to
solve, which, as already indicated by Perlès (2020)immediately after the conference, indicate a renewed
evaluation of the old question of how the complex transformations at the transition from the Mesolithic to
the Neolithic in Europe can be explained. In this sense, the presentations and articles highlighted the
Figure 3: Breakdown by countries of the geographical regions covered by both oral and poster presentations given at the Early
Neolithic of Europe conference.
7In the case of those articles/studies covering wide regions that included more than one country, we have counted only the
country better represented (e.g. more sites, larger area, larger assemblages and more samples). In addition, the few theoretical
articles not related to any geographical region of Europe, in particular, have not been included in the chart.
8See Supplementary Material for the full list of the Special Issue articles,
292 Ferran Borrell et al.
complexity of the processes at work in the spread of the Neolithic way of lifein Europe as well as the
diversity of economic bases, their relationship with the dierent environments and symbolic behaviour. In
fact, there is little doubt that the Neolithisation of Europe is better understood as a process of processes. In
addition, the conference and articles have made clear thatsome of the classic concepts, such as the Neolithic
Package,should be rethought, deconstructed or, paraphrasing Perlès (2020), they can
scarcely encompass the rich cultural and economic mosaic revealed by the ever-increasing evidence coming
from each corner of the continent. Other concepts, such as the Wave of Advanceneed to be rened and
complemented with detailed data from regional and local studies that indicate that, behind the main east
west process of diusion, lay an extremely complex process involving a series of waves of advance, in several
directions, with some gaps (leapfrogging)and some retreats and failures. It is thus clear that the process was
not always in all regions the result of a gradual, homogeneousand progressive process. These and other major
topics such as the forms of interaction between farmers and hunter-gatherers, the role of local populations in
the dissemination of the Neolithic way of life in particular regions or the demic contribution of Near-Eastern
colonists to the neolithisation of the continent, were also debated. In this way, the conference generated an
overview of the current state of research and provided useful starting points for future research, as these
challenging and unanswered questions will continue to be addressed during the next decades, hopefully at
the next venues of the Early Neolithic of Europe Conference.
Acknowledgments: The publication of the conference proceedings has been made possible thanks to the
support of the Catalan Agency for Management of University and Research Grants (AGAUR)(grant refer-
ence: SGR-2017-995)and the Agència Catalana del Patrimoni Cultural. We are also thankful to all authors
who contributed with their innovative articles to this special issue and all anonymous reviewers whose
thorough work greatly added to the articles submitted. We would also like to express our gratitude to Open
Archaeology, in particular the tireless support and work of Katarzyna Inga Michalak. Finally, we thank all
the members of Manners Conferences and Events Barcelona for their hard work and professionalism in the
organisation of the meeting.
Figure 4: Breakdown by countries of the geographical regions covered by the presentations nally published in the journal
Open Archaeology.
9In the case of those papers/studies covering wide regions that included more than one country, we have counted only the
better represented country (e.g. more sites, larger area, larger assemblages and more samples).
Assessing the Early Stages of Neolithisation Processes in Europe 293
Funding information: The work was nanced by a grant generously provided by the Catalan Agency for
Management of University and Research Grants (AGAUR)(grant reference: SGR-2017-995)of the Generalitat
de Catalunya.
Author contributions: The authors have accepted responsibility for the entire content of this manuscript
and approved its submission. FB and XT: conceptualisation and writing the original draft. IC, MC, NM, AN-
E, MP, SV-L: reviewing and editing.
Conict of interest: The authors state no conict of interest.
Data availability statement: Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no datasets were generated or
analysed during this study.
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Full-text available
A synthetic history of human land use Humans began to leave lasting impacts on Earth's surface starting 10,000 to 8000 years ago. Through a synthetic collaboration with archaeologists around the globe, Stephens et al. compiled a comprehensive picture of the trajectory of human land use worldwide during the Holocene (see the Perspective by Roberts). Hunter-gatherers, farmers, and pastoralists transformed the face of Earth earlier and to a greater extent than has been widely appreciated, a transformation that was essentially global by 3000 years before the present. Science , this issue p. 897 ; see also p. 865
Farmers made a sudden and dramatic appearance in Greece around 7000 BC, bringing with them new ceramics and crafts, and establishing settled villages. They were Europe's first farmers, and their settlements provide the link between the first agricultural communities in the Near East and the subsequent spread of the new technologies to the Balkans and on to Western Europe. In this 2001 book, Catherine Perlès argues that the stimulus for the spread of agriculture to Europe was a colonisation movement involving small groups of maritime peoples. Drawing evidence from a wide range of archaeological sources, including often neglected 'small finds', and introducing daring new perspectives on funerary rituals and the distribution of figurines, she constructs a complex and subtle picture of early Neolithic societies, overturning the traditional view that these societies were simple and self-sufficient.
An overview of the origins of agriculture cases known from Eurasia and Africa, with a brief survey of the Americas, documents only a few "centers" where subsistence based on founder crops and domesticated animals emerged, and where the additional "noncenters" were identified. By examining the evidence of plant exploitation and eventual cultivation practiced by Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene foragers in regions where the information is sufficiently detailed, together with the nature of their habitation sites, one can trace the common processes for the transition from hunting and gathering to farming communities who continued to exploit supplementary wild resources.
The aim of this interdisciplinary review is to provide a new framework for the research in the history of human transformation of the biosphere. It focuses on the major transitions, which resulted in a considerable increase in our species' impact on the biosphere (in relation to the state before the transition). Six such transitions are identified, in chronological order these are: 1) the use of fire, 2) language, 3) agriculture, 4) civilization (states), 5) European conquests and 6) the technological-scientific (r)evolution and the dominance of fossil fuels as primary energy sources. Such an inquiry of our biosphere transforming activities may be of great importance in establishing ecologically sustainable societies.
One of humanity's most important milestones was the transition from hunting and gathering to food production and permanent village life. This Neolithic Revolution first occurred in the Near East, changing the way humans interacted with their environment and each other, setting the stage, ultimately, for the modern world. Based on more than thirty years of fieldwork, this timely volume examines the Neolithic Revolution in the Levantine Near East and the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. Alan H. Simmons explores recent research regarding the emergence of Neolithic populations, using both environmental and theoretical contexts, and incorporates specific case studies based on his own excavations. In clear and graceful prose, Simmons traces chronological and regional differences within this land of immense environmental contrasts-woodland, steppe, and desert. He argues that the Neolithic Revolution can be seen in a variety of economic, demographic, and social guises and that it lacked a single common stimulus. Each chapter includes sections on history, terminology, geographic range, specific domesticated species, the composition of early villages and households, and the development of social, symbolic, and religious behavior. Most chapters include at least one case study and conclude with a concise summary. In addition, Simmons presents a unique chapter on the island of Cyprus, where intriguing new research challenges assumptions about the impact and extent of the Neolithic. The Neolithic Revolution in the Near East conveys the diversity of our Neolithic ancestors, providing a better understanding of the period and the new social order that arose because of it. This insightful volume will be especially useful to Near Eastern scholars and to students of archaeology and the origins of agriculture.