Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-558cb97cc8-kfd6t Total loading time: 2.195 Render date: 2022-10-07T20:16:04.557Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "displayNetworkTab": true, "displayNetworkMapGraph": false, "useSa": true } hasContentIssue true

The Birth of the Gods and the Origins of Agriculture by Jacques Cauvin, translated by Trevor Watkins (New Studies in Archaeology.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000; ISBN 0-521-65135-2 hardback £37.50 & $59.95 Reviewed by Ian Hodder, Gary O. Rollefson, Ofer Bar-Yosef with a response by Trevor Watkins

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 September 2001

Jacques Cauvin
Affiliation:
Institut de Préhistoire Orientale, Jalès, 07460 Berrais, France
Ian Hodder
Affiliation:
Department of Cultural and Social Anthropology, Standford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA; E-mail: ihodder@stanford.edu
Gary O. Rollefson
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, Whitman College, Walla Walla, WA 99362, USA; E-mail: rollefgo@whitman.edu
Ofer Bar-Yosef
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, Harvard University, Peabody Museum, 11 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA; E-mail: obaryos@fas.harvard.edu
Trevor Watkins
Affiliation:
Department of Archaeology, University of Edinburgh, The Old High School, Infirmary Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1LT, Scotland; E-mail: Trevor.Watkins@ed.ac.uk

Abstract

When, almost a century ago, Raphael Pumpelly put forward the ‘oasis theory’ for the origins of farming in the Near East, his was one of the first in a long series of explanations which looked to environment and ecology as the cause of the shift from hunting and gathering to cultivation and animal husbandry. Pumpelly envisaged climatic desiccation at the end of the last Ice Age as the primary factor, forcing humans, plants and animals into ever closer proximity as the arid zones expanded around them. Subsequent fieldworkers took the closer investigation of environmental changes as a key aim of their research, both in the Near East and elsewhere, and this has remained a fundamental theme in theories for the emergence of agriculture. More recent advances in our understanding of environmental change have placed particular emphasis on the cold Younger Dryas episode, at the end of the last Ice Age. The impact of this sudden reversal of climate warming on the complex Natufian hunter-gatherers of the Levant may, it is argued, have forced or encouraged these communities to explore novel subsistence modes.

Not everybody accepts such a chain of reasoning, however, and in The Birth of Gods and the Origins of Agriculture, French archaeologist Jacques Cauvin rejects this emphasis on ecology and environment as the cause of change. Instead, he argues that primacy should be accorded to a restructuring of human mentality from the thirteenth to the tenth millennium BC, expressed in terms of new religious ideas and symbols. Cauvin's book, originally published in French in 1994 under the title Naissance des divinités, naissance de l'agriculture, adopts an ideological approach to explaining the Neolithic which is at odds with many traditional understandings, but which resonates closely with the idea that the Neolithic is much more than an economic transition, and coincided with a transformation in the world view of the prehistoric societies concerned. The present English translation appeared in 2000, and is based on the second French edition (1997) with the addition of a postscript summarizing relevant discoveries made since that date.

Owing to illness, Jacques Cauvin has been unable to contribute to this Review Feature as had been hoped, but we are fortunate that his translator, Trevor Watkins, has agreed to draft a response to the comments made by our invited reviewers. These include Ian Hodder, whose own work on the Neolithic transition has been influenced by Cauvin's research, and Ofer Bar-Yosef and Gary Rollefson, both specialists in the prehistory of the Levant. At Dr Watkins' suggestion, the introductory piece which opens the Review Feature is a translated extract from Jacques Cauvin's contribution to a similar review treatment in Les Nouvelles de l'Archéologie (No. 79, 2000, 49–53). As our reviewers make clear, the significance of the book, and the debate which it has initiated, will make it akey text for many years to come.

Type
Review Article
Copyright
2001 The McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research

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.)
4
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org 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 @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ 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 Birth of the Gods and the Origins of Agriculture by Jacques Cauvin, translated by Trevor Watkins (New Studies in Archaeology.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000; ISBN 0-521-65135-2 hardback £37.50 & $59.95 Reviewed by Ian Hodder, Gary O. Rollefson, Ofer Bar-Yosef with a response by Trevor Watkins
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 Birth of the Gods and the Origins of Agriculture by Jacques Cauvin, translated by Trevor Watkins (New Studies in Archaeology.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000; ISBN 0-521-65135-2 hardback £37.50 & $59.95 Reviewed by Ian Hodder, Gary O. Rollefson, Ofer Bar-Yosef with a response by Trevor Watkins
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 Birth of the Gods and the Origins of Agriculture by Jacques Cauvin, translated by Trevor Watkins (New Studies in Archaeology.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000; ISBN 0-521-65135-2 hardback £37.50 & $59.95 Reviewed by Ian Hodder, Gary O. Rollefson, Ofer Bar-Yosef with a response by Trevor Watkins
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? *