Abstract: The First Farmers in Western Asia: Excavations at Abu Hureyra on the Euphrates

The transition from hunting and gathering to farming was the most important transformation that has taken place in the entire human career.  It marked a major step away from a two million year old way of life of foraging for wild plants and consumption of game to a new form of existence based on domesticated species.  These first farmers usually inhabited settled villages.  In time, farming led to population growth, more complex societies, and our modern world.

This change first occurred in Western Asia.  Much of the process can be seen at the ancient settlement of Abu Hureyra in the Euphrates River Valley.  In excavations I conducted there in the 1970s we documented the adoption of farming by the inhabitants 13,000 years ago and the subsequent growth of the settlement that followed.  Abu Hureyra is the oldest settlement at which the inception of farming had been demonstrated, and it became one of the largest early villages known across the region.

 In this lecture I shall describe the excavation and its results.  I shall also discuss current research, much of it conducted by a new generation of scholars, on the material we recovered, especially the plant, animal, and human remains.  This is providing new insights on the development of farming at Abu Hureyra.  It also demonstrates the power of new scientific research techniques.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

Carter, S.F. 2007.  Neolithic.  Routledge.

Moore, A.M.T., Hillman, G.C., and Legge, A.J. 2000.  Village on the Euphrates.  Oxford University Press.


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