Animals and the Neolithic

Cui bono?

Authored by: Terry O’Connor

Multispecies Archaeology

Print publication date:  February  2018
Online publication date:  February  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138898981
eBook ISBN: 9781315707709
Adobe ISBN:


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Gordon Childe’s concept of a Neolithic Revolution did archaeology both a favour and a disservice (Harris 1994). On the positive side, it was a bold attempt to view a cultural phenomenon that is clearly seen in the Eurasian archaeological record in an integrated way that considered all of the socioeconomic implications of settling down to farm. If the concept looks rather quaint and misguided now, it is because archaeology has moved on, in particular beyond Eurasia, and we now have a far greater and more complex data set to work with than was available to Childe. On the downside, by presenting the advent of agriculture as a Revolution, Childe encouraged a generation or more of prehistorians to think of the Neolithic in terms of old lifeways being overthrown and completely replaced. Childe’s Marxist view of the world perhaps inclined him to think in terms of revolutionary rather than gradual change (Greene 1999; Thomas 1982). Whatever the underlying philosophy, the concept of a Neolithic Revolution gained appreciable traction (e.g. Simmons 2011). Even some more recent discussions of the subject that give due weight to pre-Neolithic developments towards cultural complexity nonetheless refer to the ‘Neolithic Revolution’ (e.g. Renfrew 2006).

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