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The Climatic Origins of the Neolithic Revolution: Theory and Evidence

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  • Quamrul Ashraf
  • Stelios Michalopoulos

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- archaelogical 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 Department of Economics, Tufts University in its series Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University with number 0751.

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Date of creation: 2010
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Handle: RePEc:tuf:tuftec:0751

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

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References

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  3. Quamrul Ashraf & Oded Galor, 2010. "Dynamics and Stagnation in the Malthusian Epoch," Center for Development Economics 2010-07, Department of Economics, Williams College, revised May 2011.
  4. Gregory Dow & Clyde Reed & Nancy Olewiler, 2009. "Climate reversals and the transition to agriculture," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 14(1), pages 27-53, March.
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  9. Stelios Michalopoulos, 2011. "The Origins of Technolinguistic Diversity," Economics Working Papers 0095, Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science.
  10. Galor, Oded & Weil, David, 1999. "From Malthusian Stagnation to Modern Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 2082, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  11. Quamrul Ashraf & Oded Galor, 2008. "Dynamics and Stagnation in the Malthusain Epoch: Theory and Evidence," Working Papers 2008-14, Brown University, Department of Economics.
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  16. Ashraf, Quamrul & Galor, Oded, 2007. "Cultural Assimilation, Cultural Diffusion and the Origin of the Wealth of Nations," CEPR Discussion Papers 6444, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Stelios Michalopoulos, 2008. "The Origins of Ethnolinguistic Diversity: Theory and Evidence," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0725, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  2. James Fenske & Namrata Kala, 2012. "Climate, Ecosystem Resilience and the Slave Trade," Economics Series Working Papers WPS/2012-23, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  3. James Fenske, 2012. "Ecology, trade and states in pre-colonial Africa," CSAE Working Paper Series 2012-18, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
  4. Gregory Dow & Clyde Reed & Nancy Olewiler, 2009. "Climate reversals and the transition to agriculture," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 14(1), pages 27-53, March.
  5. Quamrul Ashraf & Stelios Michalopoulos, 2013. "Climatic Fluctuations and the Diffusion of Agriculture," NBER Working Papers 18765, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Nunn, Nathan, 2014. "Historical Development," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 7, pages 347-402 Elsevier.

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