Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-59b7f5684b-b2xwp Total loading time: 0.772 Render date: 2022-10-06T02:26:10.514Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "displayNetworkTab": true, "displayNetworkMapGraph": true, "useSa": true } hasContentIssue true

Article contents

The earliest farmers in Europe

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2015

Tjeerd H. van Andel
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EQ, England
Curtis N. Runnels
Department of Archaeology, Boston University, 675 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston MA 02215, USA


Some 9000 years ago the first European farmers established themselves in the empty plains of Thessaly, the only region in Greece that provided a reasonably assured harvest and was large enough for significant population growth. They flourished there and after more than a thousand years spread to the Balkans and beyond. The recognition that their success may have depended on the natural irrigation of river and lake floodplains leads us to a modified version of the wave-of-advance model of demic diffusion.

Copyright © Antiquity Publications Ltd. 1995

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Ammerman, A.J. 1989. On the Neolithic transition in Europe: a comment on Zvelebil & Zvelebil (1988), Antiquity 63: 162–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ammerman, A.J. & Cavalli-Sforza, L.L.. 1971. Measuring the rate of spread of early farming in Europe, Man 6: 674–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ammerman, A.J. & Cavalli-Sforza, L.L.. 1979. The wave of advance model for the spread of agriculture in Europe, in Renfrew, C. & Cooke, K.L. (ed.); Transformations: mathematical approaches to culture change: 275–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ammerman, A.J. & Cavalli-Sforza, L.L.. 1984. The Neolithic transition and the genetics of population in Europe. Princeton (NJ): Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Andreou, S. & Kotsakis, K.. 1994. Prehistoric rural communnities in perspective: the Langadas Survey Project, in Doukellis, P. & Mendoni, L.G. (ed.), Structures rurales et sociétés antiques: 1725. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.Google Scholar
Barker, G. 1975. Early Neolithic land use in Yugoslavia. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 41: 85104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Barker, G. 1985. Prehistoric farming in Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Bar-Yosef, O. & Kislev, M.E.. 1989. Early farming communities in the Jordan Valley, in Harris, D.R. & Hillman, G.C. (ed.) Foraging and farming: the evolution of plant exploitation: 632– 42. London: Unwin Hyman.Google Scholar
Bintliff, J.L. & Snodgrass, A.M.. 1985. The Cambridge/ Bradford Boeotian Expedition, Journal of Field Archaeology 12: 123–63.Google Scholar
Bonsall, C. (ed.). 1989. The Mesolithic in Europe. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
Bottema, S. 1974. Late Quaternary vegetation history of northwestern Greece. Ph.D dissertation, University of Groningen.Google Scholar
Bottema, S. 1979. Pollenanalytical investigations in Thessaly, Greece, Palaeohistoria 21: 1940.Google Scholar
Bottema, S. 1982. Palynological investigations in Greece with special reference to pollen as an indicator of human activity, Palaeohistoria 24: 237–89. Google Scholar
Bottema, S. 1991. Pollen proxy data from southeastern Europe and the Near East, in Frenzel, B. (ed.), Evaluation of climate proxy data in relation to the European Holocene: 6379. Stuttgart: Fischer.Google Scholar
Bottema, S. & Woldring, H.. 1990. Anthropogenic indicators in the pollen record of the eastern Mediterranean, in Bottema, S. et al. (ed.), Man’s role in the shaping of the eastern Mediterranean landscape: 231–64. Rotterdam: Balkema.Google Scholar
Broodbank, C. & Strasser, T.F.. 1991. Migrant farmers and the Neolithic colonization of Crete, Antiquity 65: 233–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Buringh, P. 1957. Living conditions in the lower Mesopo-tamian plain in ancient times, Sumer 13: 3046.Google Scholar
Buringh, P. & Edelman, C.H.. 1955. Some remarks about the soils of the alluvial plain of Iraq south of Bagdad, Netherlands Journal of Agricultural Science 3: 4049.Google Scholar
Caputo, R., Bravard, J.P. & Helly, B.. 1994. The Pliocene–Quaternary sedimentary evolution of the Larissa Plain, (eastern Thessaly, Greece), Geodinamica Acta 7: 219231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Carleton, M.A. 1901. Emmer, a grain for semi–arid regions. Washington (DC): US Department of Agriculture. Farmers Bulletin 139.Google Scholar
Chapman, J. 1989. Demographic trends in neothermal south–east Europe, in Bonsall, (ed.): 500–15.Google Scholar
Cherry, J.F. et al. 1988. Archaeological survey in an artifactrich landscape: a Middle Neolithic example from Nemea, Greece, American Journal of Archaeology 92:159–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Colson, E. 1979. In good years and bad: food strategies and self–reliant societies, Journal of Anthropological Research 35: 1829.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Davies, M.S. & Hillman, G.C.. 1988. Effects of soil flooding on growth and grain yield of populations of tetraploid and hexaploid species of wheat, Annals of Botany 62: 597604.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Delano Smith, C. 1987. The Neolithic landscape of the Tavoliere, Apulia, in Jones, G.B. (ed.), The Neolithic settlement in the Tavoliere: 126. London: Society of Antiquaries. Report 44.Google Scholar
Demitrack, A. 1986. The Late Quaternary geologic history of the Larissa Plain, Thessaly, Greece: tectonic, climatic, and human impact on the landscape. Unpublished Ph.D dissertation, Stanford University.Google Scholar
Demoule, J.-P. & Perles, C.. 1993. The Greek Neolithic; a new review, Journal of World Archaeology 7: 355416.Google Scholar
Dennell, R.W. 1978. Early farming in south Bulgaria from the VI to the III millennium BC. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports. International series 45.Google Scholar
Dennell, R.W. 1992. The origins of crop agriculture in Europe, in Cowan, C.W. & Watson, P.J. (ed.), The origins of agriculture: 71100. Washington (DC): Smithsonian Institution Press.Google Scholar
Dennell, R.W. & Webley, D.. 1975. Prehistoric settlement and land use in southern Bulgaria, in Higgs, E.S. (ed.), Palaeoeconomy: 97110.Google Scholar
Edelman, C.H. 1950. Soils of the Netherlands. Amsterdam: North–Holland.Google Scholar
Gallis, K.I. 1982. Kauseis Nekroon apo ti Neolithiki Epochi sti Thessalia. Athens: Tameio archaiologikon poron kai apallotrioseon.Google Scholar
Gallis, K.I. 1983. Platia Magoula Zarkou, Archaiologikon Deltion 38, Chronika: 201–03.Google Scholar
Gallis, K.I. 1987. Die stratigraphische Einordnung der Larisa– Kultur: eine Richtigstellung, Prähistorische Zeitschrift 62: 147–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gallis, K.I. 1992. Atlas proïstorikon oikismon tis anatolikis Thessalikis pediadas. Larisa: Ephoria of Antiquities.Google Scholar
Gatsov, I. 1989. Early Holocene flint assemblages from the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, in Bonsall, (ed.): 471–4.Google Scholar
Gimbutas, M., Winn, S. & Shimabuku, D. (ed.). 1989. Achilleion: a Neolithic settlement in central Greece; 6400–5600 BC. Los Angeles (CA): Institute of Archaeology, University of California. Monumenta Archaeologica 14.Google Scholar
Halstead, P.L.J. 1977. Prehistoric Thessaly: the submergence of civilisation, in Bintliff, J.L. (ed.), Mycenaean geography: 23–9. Cambridge; University Library Press.Google Scholar
Halstead, P.L.J. 1981a. Counting sheep in Neolithic and Bronze Ago Greece, in Hodder, I. et al. (ed.), Pattern??s?? of the past: studies in honour of David Clarke: 307–39. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Halstead, P.L.J. 1981b. From determinism to uncertainty: social storage and the rise of the Minoan palace, in Sheridan, A. & Bailey, G.N. (ed.), Economic archaeology: 187213. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports. International series 96.Google Scholar
Halstead, P.L.J. 1984. Strategies for survival: an ecological approach to social and economic change in the early farming communities of Thessaly, northern Greece. Unpublishod Ph.D dissertation, Cambridge University.Google Scholar
Halstead, P.L.J. 1989. The economy has a normal surplus: economic stability and social change among early farming communities of Thessaly, Greece, in Halstead, P. & O’Shea, J. [ed.], Bad year economics: cultural responses to risk and uncertainty: 6880. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hansen, J.M. 1988. Agriculture in the prehistoric Aegean: data versus speculation, American Journal of Archaeology 92: 3952.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hansen, J.M. 1991. The palaeoethnobotany of Franchthi Cave. Bloomington (IN): Indiana University Press. Excavations at Franchthi Cave, Greece, Fascicle 7.Google Scholar
Hopf, M.. 1969. Plant remains and early farming in Jericho, in Ucko, P.J. & Dimbleby, G. (ed.), The domestication and exploitation of plants and animals: 355–60. London: Duckworth.Google Scholar
Jameson, M.J., Runnels, C.N. & Van andel, T.H.. 1994. A Greek countryside: the southern Argolid from prehistory to the present day. Stanford (CA): Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
Jarman, M.R., Bailey, G.N. & Jarman, H.N.. 1982. Early European agriculture: its foundation and development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Jones, G.B. 1987, The Neolithic settlement in the Tavoliere. London: Society of Antiquaries. Report 44.Google Scholar
Kosse, K. 1979. Settlement ecology of the Early and Middle Neolithic Koros and Linear Pottery cultures in Hungary. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports. In-ternational series 64.Google Scholar
Kuijt, I. & Bar-yosef, O.. 1994. Radiocarbon dating for the Levantine Neolithic: observations and data, in Bar-Yosef, O. & Kra, R.S. (ed.), Late Quaternary chronology and paleoclimates of the eastern Mediterranean: 227– 46. Tucson (AZ): Radiocarbon.Google Scholar
Leake, W.M. 1835. Travels in Northern Greece. London.Google Scholar
Leeder, M.R. 1978. A quantitative stratigraphic model for alluvium with special reference to channel deposit density and interconnectedness, in Miall, A.D. (ed.), Fluvial sedimentology: 587–96. Toronto: Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists. Memoir 5.Google Scholar
Louwe Kooijmans, L.P. 1974. The Rhine/Meuse Delta: four studies on its prehistoric occupation and Holocene geology. Leiden: Leiden University Press. Analecta Praehistorica Leidensia VII.Google Scholar
Mcdonald, W.A. & Rapp, G.R. JR. (ed.). 1972. The Minnesota Messenia Expedition: reconstructing a Bronze Age regional environment. Minneapolis (MN): University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
Mcintosh, R.J. 1983. Floodplain geometry and human occupation of tlie upper inland delta of the Niger, Geographical Journal 149: 182201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Miller, R. 1980. Water use in Syria and Palestine from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age, World Archaeology 11: 331–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Modderman, P.J.R. 1949. Het oudheidkundig onderzoek van de oude woongronden in de Over-en Neder-Betuwe, Oudheidkundige Mededelingen, Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden, Nieuwe Reeks 30: 6788.Google Scholar
Perlès, C. 1979. Des navigateurs méditorranéens il y a 10,000 ans, La Recherche 96: 82–3.Google Scholar
Perlès, C. 1988. New ways with an old problem: chipped stone assemblages as an index of cultural discontinuity in early Greek history; in French, E.B. & Wardle, K.A. (ed.), Problems in Greek prehistory: 477–87. Bristol: Bristol Classical Press.Google Scholar
Perlès, C. & Vitelli, K.D.. 1994. Technologie et fonction des premieres productions céramiques de Grèce; in Terre cuite et sociétè: la céramique, document technique, économique et culturel: 225–42. XIVme Rencontre Internationale d’Archéologie et d’Histoire d’Antibes. Juan–les–Pins; Editions APDCA.Google Scholar
Piket, J.J.C. 1959. Een physisch-geografische onderzoeking van het Trikala bekken (West Thessalie), Tijdschrift van het Koninklijk Nederlandsch Aardrijkskundig Genootschap 76: 379–96.Google Scholar
Roberts, N. 1982. Forest re-advance and the Anatolian Neolithic; in Boll, M. & Limbrey, S. (ed.), Archaeological aspects of woodland ecology: 231–46. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports. International series 146.Google Scholar
Roberts, N. 1991. Late Quaternary geomorphological change and the origins of agriculture in south central Turkoy; Geoarchaeology 6: 126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Runnels, C.N. 1988. A prehistoric survey of Thessaly: new light on the Greek Middle Palaeolithic, Journal of Field Archaeology 15: 277–90.Google Scholar
Runnels, C.N. 1995. Review of Aegean prehistory IV: the Stone Age of Greece from the Palaeolithic to the advent of the Neolithic, American Journal of Archaeology 99(4).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Russell, K.W. 1988. After Eden: the behavioural ecology of early food production in the Near East and North Africa. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports. International series S391.Google Scholar
Sallares, R. 1991. The ecology of the ancient Greek world. Ithaca (NY): Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
Schneider, H.E. 1968. Zur quartärgeologischen Entwicklungsgeschichte Thessaliens (Griechenland). Bonn: Habelt.Google Scholar
Semple, E.C. 1932. The geography of the Mediterranean region. London: Constable.Google Scholar
Sherratt, A.G. 1972. Socio-economic and demographic models for the Neolithic and Bronze Age of Europe; in Clarke, D.L. (ed.), Models in Archaeology: 477542. London: Methuen.Google Scholar
Sherratt, A.G. 1980. Water, soil and seasonality in early cereal cultivation, World Archaeology 11: 313–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sherratt, A.G. 1983a. The development of Neolithic and Copper Age settlement in the Great Hungarian Plain, Part 1: the regional setting, Oxford Journal of Archaeology 1: 287316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sherratt, A.G. 1983b. Early agrarian settlement in the Kóròs region of the Great Hungarian Plain, Acta Archaeologica, Academia Scientiae Hungarica 35: 155–69.Google Scholar
Sherratt, A.G. 1984. The development of Neolithic and Copper Age settlement in the Great Hungarian Plain, Part II: site survey and settlement dynamics, Oxford Journal of Archaeology 2: 1341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sivignon, M. 1975. La Thessalie: analyse géographique d’une province grecque. Lyon: Institut des Etudes Rhodaniennes de l’Université de Lyon. Mémoircs et Documents 17.Google Scholar
Sucher Van Bath, B.H. 1967. The yields of different crops (mainly cereals) in relation to the seed c. 810-1820, Acta Historica Neerlandica 2: 26106.Google Scholar
Srejovic, D. 1989. The Mesolithic of Serbia and Montenegro, in Bonsall, (ed.): 481–91.Google Scholar
Steur, G.G.L. 1961. Methods of soil surveying in use at the Netherlands Soil Survey Institute, Boor en Spade 11: 5977.Google Scholar
Stuiver, M., & Reimer, P.J.. 1993. Extended 14C data base and revised CALIB 3.0 l4C age calibration, Radiocarbon 35: 215–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Theocharis, D.R. 1973. Neolithic Greece. Athens: National Bank of Greece.Google Scholar
Törnqvist, T. 1994. Middle and Late Holocene avulsion history of the River Rhine (Rhine–Meuse delta, Netherlands), Geology 22: 711–14.2.3.CO;2>CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Trigger, B.C. 1989. A history of archaeological thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
van Andel, T.H., Gallis, K. & Toufexis, G.. 1994. Early Neolithic farming in a Thessalian river landscape, Greece, in Lewin, J. et al. (ed.), Mediterranean Quaternary river environments: 131–43. Rotterdam: Balkema.Google Scholar
Van andel, T.H. & Runnels, C.N.. 1987. Beyond the Acropolis: a rural Greek past. Stanford (CA): Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
van Andel, T.H. & Runnels, C.N.. 1988. An essay on the ‘emergence of civilisation’ in Greece and the Aegean, Antiquity 62: 234–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
van Andel, T.H. & Zangger, E.. 1990. Landscape stability and destabilisation in the prehistory of Greece, in Bottema, S. et al. (ed.), Man’s role in the shaping of the eastern Mediterranean landscape: 159–82. Rotterdam: Balkema.Google Scholar
Vandenberghe, J., Kasse, C., Bohncke, S. & Kozarski, S.. 1994. Climate-related river activity at the Weichsel-ian–Holocene transition: a comparative study of the Warta and Maas rivers, Terra nova 6: 476–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
van Es, W.A., Sarfatij, H. & Woltering, P.J.. 1988. Archeologie in Nederland. Amsterdam: Meulenhof Informatief.Google Scholar
van Liere, W.J. 1980. Traditional water management in the lower Mekong Basin, World Archaeology 11: 265–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
van Zeist, W. & Bottema, S.. 1982. Vegetational history of the eastern Mediterranean and the Near East during the last 20,000 years, in Bintliff, J.L. & Van Zeist, W. (ed.), Palaeoclimates, palaeoenvironments and human communities in the eastern Mediterranean region in later prehistory: 277321. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports. International series 133.Google Scholar
Wells, B., Runnels, C.N. & Zangger, E.. 1990. The Berbati–Limnes archaeological survey: 1988 season, Opuscula Atheniensia 18: 207–38.Google Scholar
Willis, K.J. & Bennett, K.D.. 1994. The Neolithic transition — fact or fiction? Palaeoecological evidence from the Balkans, The Holocene 4: 326–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zvelebil, M. (ed.) 1986. Hunters in transition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Zvelebil, M. (ed.) 1989. On the transition to farming in Europe, or what was spreading with the Neolithic; a reply to Ammerman (1989), Antiquity 63: 379–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

The earliest farmers in Europe
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

The earliest farmers in Europe
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

The earliest farmers in Europe
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *