In Origins of Agriculture in Western Central Asia,
archaeologist David R. Harris addresses questions of when, how, and
why agriculture and settled village life began east of the Caspian
Sea. The book describes and assesses evidence from archaeological
investigations in Turkmenistan and adjacent parts of Iran,
Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan in relation to present and past
environmental conditions and genetic and archaeological data on the
ancestry of the crops and domestic animals of the Neolithic period.
It includes accounts of previous research on the prehistoric
archaeology of the region and reports the results of a recent
environmental-archaeological project undertaken by British,
Russian, and Turkmen archaeologists in Turkmenistan, principally at
the early Neolithic site of Jeitun (Djeitun) on the southern edge
of the Karakum desert.
This project has demonstrated unequivocally that agropastoralists
who cultivated barley and wheat, raised goats and sheep, hunted
wild animals, made stone tools and pottery, and lived in small
mudbrick settlements were present in southern Turkmenistan by 7,000
years ago (c. 6,000 BCE calibrated), where they came into contact
with hunter-gatherers of the "Keltiminar Culture." It is possible
that barley and goats were domesticated locally, but the available
archaeological and genetic evidence leads to the conclusion that
all or most of the elements of the Neolithic "Jeitun Culture"
spread to the region from farther west by a process of demic or
cultural diffusion that broadly parallels the spread of Neolithic
agropastoralism from southwest Asia into Europe.
By synthesizing for the first time what is currently known about
the origins of agriculture in a large part of Central Asia, between
the more fully investigated regions of southwest Asia and China,
this book makes a unique contribution to the worldwide literature
on transitions from hunting and gathering to agriculture.
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