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Climate change and the adoption of agriculture in north-west Europe

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 January 2017

Clive Bonsall
Department of Archaeology, University of Edinburgh, UK
Mark G. Macklin
Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences, University of Wales, Aberystwyth, UK
David E. Anderson
School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, UK
Robert W. Payton
Department of Agricultural and Environmental Science, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK


Farming can be shown to have spread very rapidly across the British Isles and southern Scandinavia around 6000 years ago, following a long period of stasis when the agricultural ‘frontier’ lay further south on the North European Plain between northern France and northern Poland. The reasons for the delay in the adoption of agriculture on the north-west fringe of Europe have been debated by archaeologists for decades. Here, we present fresh evidence that this renewed phase of agricultural expansion was triggered by a significant change in climate. This finding may also have implications for understanding the timing of the expansion of farming into some upland areas of southern and mid-latitude Europe.

On peut démontrer que, il y a 6000 ans, l'agriculture s'est répandue très rapidement dans les îles Britanniques et dans la Scandinavie méridionale. Cette expansion survenait après une longue période de stagnation où la “frontière” de l'agriculture se situait plus au sud de la plaine de l'Europe septentrionale, entire le nord de la France et le nord de la Pologne. Depuis des décennies, les archéologues débattent sur les raisons de ce retard dans l'adoption de l'agriculture aux limites nord-ouest de l'Europe. Nous présentons ici de nouvelles évidences pour prouver que l'expansion de l'agriculture fût revivée par un changement significatif due climat. Ce fait pourrait aussi expliquer le rythme de la progression de l'agriculture jusque sur certains plateaux de l'Europe méridionale et centrale.



Nachweisbar breitete sich die Landwirtschaft vor ca. 6.000 Jahren – nach einer langen Periode der Stagnation, in der die landwirtschaftliche „Grenze” weiter im Süden, im Nordeuropäischen Tiefland zwischen Nordfrankreich und Nordpolen lag – sehr schnell über die Britischen Inseln und Südskandinavien aus. Die Ursachen dieses verspäteten Einsetzens der Landwirtschaft am nordwestlichen Rand Europas werden von Archäologen seit Jahrzehnten diskutiert. Hier werden neue Hinweise darauf vorgestellt, daß diese erneute Phase landwirtschaftlicher Expansion durch einen signifikanten Klimawechsel ausgelöst wurde. Diese Erkenntnisse könnten auch zum Verständnis des Zeitpunktes der Ausdehnung der Landwirtschaft in einige Hochlagen südlicher und mittlerer Breitengrade Europas beitragen.

Copyright © 2002 Sage Publications 

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