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The Climatic Origins of the Neolithic Revolution: Theory and Evidence

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  • Ashraf, Quamrul
  • Michalopoulos, Stelios

Abstract

This research examines theoretically and empirically the origins of agriculture. The theory highlights the role of climatic sequences as a fundamental determinant of both technological sophistication and population density in a hunter-gatherer regime. It argues that foragers facing volatile environments were forced to take advantage of their productive endowments at a faster pace. Consequently, as long as climatic shocks preserved the possibility for agriculture, differences in the rate at which foragers were climatically propelled to exploit their habitat determined the comparative evolution of hunter-gatherer societies towards farming. The theory is tested using both cross-country and cross-archaeological site data on the emergence of farming. Consistent with the theory, the empirical analysis demonstrates that, conditional on biogeographic endowments, climatic volatility has a non-monotonic effect on the timing of the transition to agriculture. Farming was undertaken earlier in regions characterized by intermediate levels of climatic volatility, with regions subjected to either too high or too low intertemporal variability transiting later.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 23137.

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Date of creation: 31 May 2010
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:23137

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Keywords: Hunting and Gathering; Agriculture; Neolithic Revolution; Climatic Volatility; Technological Progress; Population Density;

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  1. Oded Galor & Stelios Michalopoulos, 2009. "The Evolution of Entrepreneurial Spirit and the Process of Development," Carlo Alberto Notebooks, Collegio Carlo Alberto 111, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
  2. Galor, Oded & Weil, David, 1999. "From Malthusian Stagnation to Modern Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 2082, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Quamrul Ashraf & Oded Galor, 2011. "Dynamics and Stagnation in the Malthusian Epoch," NBER Working Papers 17037, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Quamrul Ashraf & Oded Galor, 2008. "Dynamics and Stagnation in the Malthusain Epoch: Theory and Evidence," Working Papers 2008-14, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  5. Douglass C. North & Robert Paul Thomas, 1977. "The First Economic Revolution," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, Economic History Society, vol. 30(2), pages 229-241, 05.
  6. Galor, Oded & Moav, Omer, 2001. "Natural Selection and the Origin of Economic Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 2727, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Smith, Vernon L, 1975. "The Primitive Hunter Culture, Pleistocene Extinction, and the Rise of Agriculture," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(4), pages 727-55, August.
  8. Matthew Baker, 2008. "A structural model of the transition to agriculture," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, Springer, vol. 13(4), pages 257-292, December.
  9. Gary D. Hansen & Edward C. Prescott, 2002. "Malthus to Solow," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 1205-1217, September.
  10. Jacob L. Weisdorf, 2003. "Stone Age Economics: The Origins of Agriculture and the Emergence of Non-Food Specialists," Discussion Papers 03-34, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
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  12. Holger Strulik & Jacob Weisdorf, 2008. "Population, food, and knowledge: a simple unified growth theory," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, Springer, vol. 13(3), pages 195-216, September.
  13. Gregory Dow & Clyde Reed & Nancy Olewiler, 2009. "Climate reversals and the transition to agriculture," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, Springer, vol. 14(1), pages 27-53, March.
  14. Oded Galor & Quamrul Ashraf, 2007. "Cultural Assimilation, Cultural Diffusion and the Origin of the Wealth of Nations," Working Papers 2007-3, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  15. Locay, Luis, 1989. "From Hunting and Gathering to Agriculture," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 37(4), pages 737-56, July.
  16. Conley, T. G., 1999. "GMM estimation with cross sectional dependence," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 92(1), pages 1-45, September.
  17. Nicolas Marceau & Gordon Myers, 2005. "On the Early Holocene: Foraging to Early Agriculture," Cahiers de recherche, CIRPEE 0502, CIRPEE.
  18. Olsson, Ola & Hibbs Jr., Douglas A., 2000. "Biogeography and Long-Run Economic Development," Working Papers in Economics, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics 26, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics, revised 11 Aug 2000.
  19. Kremer, Michael, 1993. "Population Growth and Technological Change: One Million B.C. to 1990," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 108(3), pages 681-716, August.
  20. Nils-Petter Lagerl–f, 2003. "From Malthus to Modern Growth: Can Epidemics Explain the Three Regimes?," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 44(2), pages 755-777, 05.
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  22. Olsson, Ola, 2001. "The Rise of Neolithic Agriculture," Working Papers in Economics, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics 57, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Michalopoulos, Stelios, 2008. "The Origins of Ethnolinguistic Diversity: Theory and Evidence," MPRA Paper 11531, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. James Fenske, 2012. "Ecology, Trade and States in Pre-Colonial Africa," Economics Series Working Papers WPF/2012-18, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  3. James Fenske & Namrata Kala, 2012. "Climate, ecosystem resilience and the slave trade," CSAE Working Paper Series 2012-23, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
  4. Nunn, Nathan, 2014. "Historical Development," Handbook of Economic Growth, Elsevier, in: Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 7, pages 347-402 Elsevier.
  5. Quamrul Ashraf & Stelios Michalopoulos, 2013. "Climatic Fluctuations and the Di¤usion of Agriculture," Working Papers 2013-3, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  6. Gregory Dow & Clyde Reed & Nancy Olewiler, 2009. "Climate reversals and the transition to agriculture," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, Springer, vol. 14(1), pages 27-53, March.

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