Against the Grain: Long-Term Patterns in Agricultural Production in Prehistoric Cyprus

Abstract

Our understanding of the timing and dynamics of the spread of human populations to the island of Cyprus has changed significantly in the last few decades. Ongoing research on a few sites has provided more detail not only on when the initial explorers and farming populations arrived, but also on how the unique culture of prehistoric Cyprus developed. This research explores patterns in the archaeobotanical and zooarchaeological data from prehistoric Cyprus dated from the Neolithic to the Late Bronze Age (c. 8800–1300 BC). The data provide insight into a protracted and non-linear transition to an agriculturally-focused subsistence strategy on the island, the timing of which demonstrates a deviation from the mainland trajectory. The unique transition includes a prolonged period of intermediate or mixed subsistence, which involved both a pulling back from cereal agriculture and secondary animal products and a later move, during the Bronze Age, towards perennial land use for crops that could be commodities. The results presented here suggest that, rather than any passive, demographically-driven shift to cereal agriculture, emerging social complexity and active management played key roles.

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Acknowledgements

Research for this paper was in part supported by the Comparative Pathways to Agriculture research project (ComPAg), funded by a European Research Council advanced investigator Grant (No. 323842), 2013-2018. The plant data from sites located in the mainland comes from two separate mainland databases compiled by Sue Colledge (Colledge et al. 2004) and Simone Riehl (Riehl and Kümmel 2005), and generously amalgamated by Sue Colledge. We also thank the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.

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Lucas, L., Fuller, D.Q. Against the Grain: Long-Term Patterns in Agricultural Production in Prehistoric Cyprus. J World Prehist (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10963-020-09140-6

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Keywords

  • Archaeobotany
  • Zooarchaeology
  • Islands
  • Early farming
  • Mediterranean