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Ornaments shed light on human transition from hunter gatherer to farmer

Ornament analysis reveal resistance of North European cultures to spread of farming


The first Northern European agriculturalists used the same ornamental beads for centuries after the introduction of farming, which may indicate their resistance to the spread of farming, according to a study published April 8, 2015 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Solange Rigaud from New York University and colleagues.

Farming and herding were introduced 8000 years ago in Europe by populations from the Near East. Unfortunately, interactions, including cultural exchanges, between agricultural and indigenous foraging societies during this transition are poorly documented. To understand changes in cultural across Europe during this period, the authors of this study analyzed 224 bead types used by the last indigenous foragers and the first agriculturalist populations found at 212 European Mesolithic and 222 Early Neolithic sites. Items like personal ornaments may help scientists' document changes in cultural geography during a particular historical period.

In Southern and Central Europe, researchers found adoption of new bead types and selective appropriation of old attire by incoming farmers. In Northern Europe, instead of integrating new bead types into their attire from the farming societies, the first agriculturalists used for centuries the same personal ornaments as previous foraging communities. The authors of the study suggest that this reluctance to incorporate new beads may indicate cultural resistance during the transition. They also indicate that the reasons for such a resistance against the introduction of new fashions is unclear. The study may open a new window into the complexity of the cultural interactions that occurred between Europeans populations at a key moment in continental history.


Adapted by PLOS ONE from release provided by author

Citation: Rigaud S, d'Errico F, Vanhaeren M (2015) Ornaments Reveal Resistance of North European Cultures to the Spread of Farming. PLoS ONE 10(4): e0121166. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0121166

Funding: This research was funded by the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research. The final stage of this study was conducted during a postdoctoral research consecutively granted by the Fyssen Foundation and the Marie Curie COFUND Action. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests: The author has declared that no competing interests exist.

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