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Stone Age Economics: The Origins of Agriculture and the Emergence of Non-Food Specialists

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  • Jacob L. Weisdorf

    (Institute of Economics, University of Copenhagen)

Abstract

This paper examines the prehistoric shift from hunting and gathering to agriculture. Among hunters and gatherers, all community members were engaged in food provision. Agricultural societies, in contrast, avail themselves of non-food specialists. This paper argues that the adoption of agriculture necessitated the introduction of non-food specialists. Since the release of labour from food generating activities stimulates economic development, this implies that the shift to agriculture literally bore the seeds of later economic growth. The model shows, in accordance with archaeological evidence, that hunters and gatherers, faced with redistribution costs arising from division of labour, delay the adoption of agricultural techniques for a period of time, after which a large step forward in food procurement technology–a ’Neolithic revolution’–is associated with the shift to farming.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:kud:kuiedp:0334
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    File URL: http://www.econ.ku.dk/english/research/publications/wp/2003/0334.pdf/
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2002. "Natural Selection and the Origin of Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1133-1191.
    2. Tamura, Robert, 2002. "Human capital and the switch from agriculture to industry," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 207-242, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Quamrul Ashraf & Stelios Michalopoulos, 2015. "Climatic Fluctuations and the Diffusion of Agriculture," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 97(3), pages 589-609, July.
    2. Quamrul Ashraf & Stelios Michalopoulos, 2010. "The Climatic Origins of the Neolithic Revolution: Theory and Evidence," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0751, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
    3. Jacob L. Weisdorf, 2005. "From Foraging To Farming: Explaining The Neolithic Revolution," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, pages 561-586.
    4. Matthew Baker, 2008. "A structural model of the transition to agriculture," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 13(4), pages 257-292, December.
    5. Guzmán, Ricardo Andrés & Weisdorf, Jacob, 2011. "The Neolithic Revolution from a price-theoretic perspective," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(2), pages 209-219, November.
    6. Ricardo Andrés Guzmán, 2007. "Life-Work Balance During The Neolithic Revolution," Abante, Escuela de Administracion. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile., vol. 10(2), pages 93-125.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    hunting-gathering; leisure time; neolithic revolution; nonfood specialists; transition;

    JEL classification:

    • N50 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • Q18 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agricultural Policy; Food Policy

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