The Spread of Neolithic Plant Economies from the Near East to Northwest Europe: a Phylogenetic Analysis

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Authors: Coward, F., Shennan, S., Colledge, S., Connelly, J. and Collard, M.

Journal: Journal of Archaeological Science

Volume: 35

Issue: 1

Pages: 42-56

ISSN: 0305-4403

DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2007.02.022

Phylogenetic techniques are used to analyse the spread of Neolithic plant economies from the Near East to northwest Europe as a branching process from a founding ancestor. The analyses are based on a database of c. 7500 records of plant taxa from 250 sites dated to the early Neolithic of the region in which they occur, aggregated into a number of regional groups. The analysis demonstrates that a phylogenetic signal exists in the data but it is complicated by the fact that in comparison with the changes that occurred when the crop agriculture complex expanded out of the Near East, once it arrived in Europe it underwent only limited further changes. On the basis of the analysis it has been possible to identify the species losses and gains that occurred as the complex of crops and associated weeds spread and to show the influence of geographical location and cultural affinity on the pattern of losses and gains. This has led to consideration of the processes producing that history, including some reasons why the dispersal process did not produce a perfect tree phylogeny, as well as to the identification of some specific anomalies, such as the unusual nature of the Bulgarian pattern, which raise further questions for the future.

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