- Robert Sala
Profesor Titular de Prehistoria en la Universidad Rovira i Virgili de Tarragona. Doctor en Historia, es además director del master en Arqueología del Cuaternario en la citada universidad. Su línea de investigación está centrada en la evolución del comportamiento y formas de vida de los primeros habitantes de Europa, especialmente analiza los sistemas técnicos que desarrollaron. Ha participado como investigador en diferentes proyectos de su especialidad y actualmente es investigador del Proyecto Atapuerca.
Around thirteen thousand years ago a transformation began in some human populations of Western Asia that lead them towards a very complex social, economic, and cultural period. With this in mind, the Neolithic should be studied has a period of development of human societies from the point of view of three realms mentioned: culture, society, and economy. What can we say then from the perspectives addressed here? How does the Theory of Evolution, and the specific human evolution models, explain this phenomenon? Even though any referential work will address a purely historical vision, we are going to propose an alternative: the fight for survival and the quest for solutions to increasingly complex situations.
Along the last phase of the Paleolithic, the human populations perfected their capacity to obtain food and their introduction in the territory due to a higher efficiency in the use of resources. Most probably, these improvements were linked to a demographic growth. With this perspective, the climate change that started thirteen thousand years ago implied a new distribution of resources, causing shortage in some regions and increase in others, obliging for the evolution of new ways to acquire food and producing a certain demographic crisis.
Based on the archaeological remains, it is around this time that in the Near East the cultivation of plants began, like wheat, at the same time that the first intensive predatory hunts over entire herds of gazelles occurred. And although they were still hunters, the agriculture transformed the populations into sedentary. About eleven thousand years ago, the cultivation of rice started the Far East. Initially in dry environments, and later, around eight thousand years ago, they were transformed into the wet cultivation areas that we know today. In the Higher Valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates, located to the east of Anatolia and to the north of Irak, some populations began developing for the first time cattle rising with goats. In Siberia and Japan, several populations spatially separated invented domestic ceramic tools, a revolutionary invention made by communities that were still hunter-gatherers and nomad. While all these transformations were taking place in Asia, in Europe the climate change produced a completely different scenario: huge land and sea spaces were opened to the north of the continent allowing human groups to substitute the hunting of large herbivores with fishing and the collection of seafood.
Considering the global scenario of change, among all, the ones happening all around the Asian territories are the most revolutionary. We call Neolithic to this entire group of transformations, although it took very long until several of them met in a single point. It still took several thousand years to have some of them meet in the Near East, where the first centralized territories evolved, some larger some smaller, sometimes around a single city, and sometimes around a larger area.
From all this, we can conclude that the human groups adapted to the new scenario with revolutionary individual transformations. An ecological crisis triggered them to look for solutions, which latter allowed them to have a demographic growth once complex societies were established. This demographic growth fostered new expansions and the occupation of new regions, producing new economic activities, like in the case of Europe.