University of Southampton OCS (beta), CAA 2012

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Two heads are better than one - New approaches to identifying the origins of agriculture in Italy with DNA and C14
Keri A. Brown, Craig Alexander

Last modified: 2012-02-06


The introduction of agriculture in Europe is a perennial topic of study, as this marks the transition from gatherer-hunter societies to farming communities, and hence the foundations of our own society today. In Italy the radiocarbon evidence points to Southern Italy as the general location for this event, but the precise location is unknown. Recent biogeographical analysis of DNA from Italian emmer wheat landraces points to Northern Puglia as the location for the original founding population for these landraces. Emmer wheat is one of the founding crops of the neolithic and is unlikely to have been reintroduced later, as more productive wheats were being grown. However the radiocarbon dates from Early Neolithic sites in Southern Puglia seem to be earlier than the Early Neolithic sites in Northern Puglia. A Bayesian statistical analysis of the available radiocarbon determinations from all Puglian Early Neolithic sites throws up the intriguing possibility that the DNA analysis may well be correct, despite the apparently slightly earlier deteminations from Southern Puglia. A previously unidentified Early Neolithic horizon in Northern Puglia seems likely on archaeological grounds, which must be taken into account when interpreting the Bayesian statistical evidence for Southern Puglia. This paper describes the combination of these two new approaches in locating the introduction of agriculture to Italy.


Bayesian analysis; radiocarbon; DNA; agriculture