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The Climatic Origins of the Neolithic Revolution: Theory and Evidence

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 geographic 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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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
Contact details of provider: Postal: Williamstown, MA 01267
Phone: 413 597 2476
Fax: 413 597 4045
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  18. Douglass C. North & Robert Paul Thomas, 1977. "The First Economic Revolution," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 30(2), pages 229-241, 05.
  19. Nils-Petter Lagerlöf, 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.
  20. Olsson, Ola & Hibbs, Douglas Jr., 2005. "Biogeography and long-run economic development," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 49(4), pages 909-938, May.
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