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The Climatic Origins of the Neolithic Revolution: Theory and Evidence

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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, di€erences 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 e€ect 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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File URL: http://web.williams.edu/Economics/wp/AshrafMichalopoulos-Neolithic.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Economics, Williams College in its series Department of Economics Working Papers with number 2010-02.

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Length: 66 pages
Date of creation: May 2010
Date of revision: Feb 2011
Handle: RePEc:wil:wileco:2010-02

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

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  1. Nicolas Marceau & Gordon Myers, 2005. "On the Early Holocene: Foraging to Early Agriculture," Cahiers de recherche 0502, CIRPEE.
  2. Quamrul Ashraf & Oded Galor, 2010. "Dynamics and Stagnation in the Malthusian Epoch," Department of Economics Working Papers 2010-01, Department of Economics, Williams College, revised Jul 2010.
  3. Galor, Oded & Moav, Omer, 2001. "Natural Selection and the Origin of Economic Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 2727, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Gary D. Hansen & Edward C. Prescott, 1999. "Malthus to Solow," Staff Report 257, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  5. Olsson, Ola, 2001. "The Rise of Neolithic Agriculture," Working Papers in Economics 57, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
  6. Olsson, Ola & Hibbs Jr., Douglas A., 2000. "Biogeography and Long-Run Economic Development," Working Papers in Economics 26, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics, revised 11 Aug 2000.
  7. Kremer, Michael, 1993. "Population Growth and Technological Change: One Million B.C. to 1990," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 108(3), pages 681-716, August.
  8. Oded Galor & Stelios Michalopoulos, 2009. "The Evolution of Entrepreneurial Spirit and the Process of Development," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 111, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
  9. Holger Strulik & Jacob Weisdorf, 2008. "Population, food, and knowledge: a simple unified growth theory," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 13(3), pages 195-216, September.
  10. Douglass C. North & Robert Paul Thomas, 1977. "The First Economic Revolution," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 30(2), pages 229-241, 05.
  11. 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.
  12. Ashraf, Quamrul & Galor, Oded, 2008. "Dynamics and Stagnation in the Malthusian Epoch: Theory and Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 7057, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  13. Jacob L. Weisdorf, 2005. "From Foraging To Farming: Explaining The Neolithic Revolution," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 19(4), pages 561-586, 09.
  14. Smith, Vernon L, 1975. "The Primitive Hunter Culture, Pleistocene Extinction, and the Rise of Agriculture," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(4), pages 727-55, August.
  15. Stelios Michalopoulos, 2011. "The Origins of Technolinguistic Diversity," Economics Working Papers 0095, Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science.
  16. 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.
  17. David N. Weil & Oded Galor, 1999. "From Malthusian Stagnation to Modern Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 150-154, May.
  18. Matthew Baker, 2008. "A structural model of the transition to agriculture," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 13(4), pages 257-292, December.
  19. 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.
  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, vol. 44(2), pages 755-777, 05.
  21. Conley, T. G., 1999. "GMM estimation with cross sectional dependence," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 92(1), pages 1-45, September.
  22. 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.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. James Fenske, 2012. "Ecology, Trade and States in Pre-Colonial Africa," Economics Series Working Papers WPF/2012-18, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  2. Fenske, James & Kala, Namrata, 2013. "Climate, ecosystem resilience and the slave trade," CEPR Discussion Papers 9449, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Michalopoulos, Stelios, 2008. "The Origins of Ethnolinguistic Diversity: Theory and Evidence," MPRA Paper 11531, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Quamrul Ashraf & Stelios Michalopoulos, 2013. "Climatic Fluctuations and the Di¤usion of Agriculture," Working Papers 2013-3, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  5. Nunn, Nathan, 2014. "Historical Development," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 7, pages 347-402 Elsevier.
  6. 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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