Neolithisation in southwest Asia – the path to modernity


  • Trevor Watkins University of Edinburgh



Epi-palaeolithic, Neolithic, cognitive archaeology, cultural evolution, origins of farming


Two questions are discussed that turn out to be related. The first was posed originally by Robert Braidwood more than fifty years ago, and concerns why farming was adopted in southwest Asia early in the Neolithic, and not earlier. The second concerns the usually opposed processualist and post-processualist approaches to the Neolithic. The paper seeks to model the processes at work through the Epi-palaeolithic and early Neolithic, showing how the trend towards sedentism and storage of food resources coincided with the emergence of fully symbolic cognitive and cultural faculties. The former fed more mouths, and led to the adoption of farming practices that further intensified food productivity. The latter made possible and desirable the symbolic construction of large, permanently co-resident communities. The spread of farming may then be understood as the expansion of a complex way of life that involved communities living together in larger groups, with denser, richer cultural environments, controlling not only the built environment of their own settlements, but also the productivity of the agricultural environments that surrounded them.


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31. 12. 2006




How to Cite

Watkins, T. (2006). Neolithisation in southwest Asia – the path to modernity. Documenta Praehistorica, 33, 71-88.