Before Farming

Coastal hunter-gatherers and social evolution

marginal or central?

Before Farming (2002), 2002, (3-4), 1–22.

Abstract

General accounts of global trends in world prehistory are dominated by narratives of conquest on land: scavenging and hunting of land mammals, migration over land bridges and colonisation of new continents, gathering of plants, domestication, cultivation, and ultimately sustained population growth founded on agricultural surplus. Marine and aquatic resources fit uneasily into this sequence of social and economic development, and societies strongly dependent on them have often been regarded as relatively late in the sequence, geographically marginal or anomalous. We consider the biases and preconceptions of the ethnographic and archaeological records that have contributed to this view of marginality and examine some current issues focusing on the role of marine resources at the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition of northwest Europe. We suggest that pre-existing conventions should be critically re-examined, that coastlines may have played a more significant, widespread and persistent role as zones of attraction for human dispersal, population growth and social interaction than is commonly recognised, and that this has been obscured by hunter-gatherer and farmer stereotypes of prehistoric economies.

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Bailey, Geoff

Milner, Nicky

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