Study seeks reasons for switch to farming

Sept. 26, 2011 at 8:18 PM
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SOUTHAMPTON, England, Sept. 26 (UPI) -- Archaeologists say research on islands around Britain could provide clues to why people gave up being hunter-gatherers and turned to farming 6,000 years ago.

The researchers say they hope to settle a long-running debate about whether the change -- around 4,000 B.C. -- was due to colonists moving into Britain from mainland Europe or whether the indigenous population gradually adopted the new agricultural lifestyle themselves, The Independent reported.

"How people changed from hunter-gatherers to agricultural lifestyles is one of the big questions in archaeology," Fraser Sturt at the University of Southampton said.

"We know that the first signs of domestication occurred in the Middle East around 10,000 B.C. and reached France by 5,000 B.C." he said. "However, it appears to be another 1,000 years before Neolithic farming activities reached Britain."

Recent archaeological findings such as French pottery in Scotland suggest colonization from the continent may be one possible explanation for this change in lifestyle.

"To understand how possible this could have been, however, we need to turn our attention away from the mainland and towards the seas that form an important travel link between the islands around Britain," researcher Duncan Garrow from the University of Liverpool said. "We are excavating on the Channel Islands, Isles of Scilly and in the Outer Hebrides, which form part of an important maritime zone that surprisingly has been given little scholarly attention in the past."

The researchers say excavating the three island groups in the western seaways could help in understanding what sailing across this area would have been like in 4,000 B.C.

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