A major issue in the debate surrounding the transition to farming in Europe concerns the manner of its spread. To many, the agricultural transition in Europe represents a spread of people, cultigens and domesticates, and of new technology, from the nuclear zone of the Near East to the peripheral zone of Europe, the latter regarded as a passive recipient, rather than an active element in the process of transition. But, despite many years of investigation of the subject – ever since Gordon Childe's first publication of The Dawn of European Civilisation (Childe 1925) – the transition from mainly hunter-gatherer Mesolithic societies to predominantly farming Neolithic ones remains a major unresolved problem in European prehistory, with the reasons for the transition and the manner, the rate, and the mechanism of this transformation all being subjects of debate and controversy (for example, in Britain: Dennell 1983, Ammerman and Cavalli-Sforza 1984, Zvelebil 1986c, Thomas 1988, 1991, Zvelebil and Zvelebil 1988, Ammerman 1989, Zvelebil 1998, etc.; in continental Europe: Lichardus and Lichardus- Itten 1985, Aurenche and Cauvin 1989, Guilaine 1987, Budja 1993, Séfériadès 1993, Zilhão 1993, Cauvin 1994; etc.).
This debate underlines the importance of the issue, which has historical and anthropological, as well as political, implications. Historically, the transition to the Neolithic addresses the origin and constituent elements of the Neolithic and the subsequent cultures in Europe. Anthropologically, it addresses the transformation of material cultures, the processes of diffusion, interaction, and adoption, and their recognition in the archaeological record. Politically, it raises the question of European cultural identity, and of the genetic and linguistic roots of most present-day Europeans (e.g. Renfrew 1987, 1996, Zvelebil and Zvelebil 1988, Sokal et al.