New paper: Climate shaped how Neolithic farmers and European hunter-gatherers interacted after a major slowdown from 6,100 BCE to 4,500 BCE

Crops. Photo by Michela Leonardi
Crops. Photo by Michela Leonardi

It just came out in Nature Human Behaviour a new paper to which I collaborated: Climate shaped how Neolithic farmers and European hunter-gatherers interacted after a major slowdown from 6,100 BCE to 4,500 BCE. The article is behind paywall, but there is a read-only version and the publisher added the full text in Researchgate.

Lia Betti, Robert M. Beyer, Eppie R. Jones, Anders Eriksson, Francesca Tassi, Veronika Siska, Michela Leonardi, Pierpaolo Maisano Delser, Lily K. Bentley, Philip R. Nigst, Jay T. Stock, Ron Pinhasi & Andrea Manica 

Climate shaped how Neolithic farmers and European hunter-gatherers interacted after a major slowdown from 6,100 BCE to 4,500 BCE

The Neolithic transition in Europe was driven by the rapid dispersal of Near Eastern farmers who, over a period of 3,500 years, brought food production to the furthest corners of the continent. However, this wave of expansion was far from homogeneous, and climatic factors may have driven a marked slowdown observed at higher latitudes. Here, we test this hypothesis by assembling a large database of archaeological dates of first arrival of farming to quantify the expansion dynamics. We identify four axes of expansion and observe a slowdown along three axes when crossing the same climatic threshold. This threshold reflects the quality of the growing season, suggesting that Near Eastern crops might have struggled under more challenging climatic conditions. This same threshold also predicts the mixing of farmers and hunter-gatherers as estimated from ancient DNA, suggesting that unreliable yields in these regions might have favoured the contact. between the two groups.

Nat Hum Behav (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-020-0897-7

New release: Climate change – the board game

I have just released Climate Change – the board game: a free educational board game about evolution and climate change. The aim is to “put yourself in the paws” of animal species, and to experience both their evolution and their struggles in the current climate emergency.

Climate change - the board game

Each player is a medium/large mammal species, living in a word where climate changes unexpectedly. Every species has its DNA and collects mutations through time, allowing it to adapt to new habitats. Sometimes evolving is not an option, and the species must migrate or go extinct. It is also possible to integrate human-associated climate changes.

It has been designed as an educational resource for schools (groups of 4-5 people, with an approximate duration of 30 minutes to leave space for discussion and questions): we have used it successfully to do outreach at the Museum of Zoology, University of Cambridge. Still, it can also be played with friends and family.

Climate change the board game activity at the Zoology Museum, Cambridge