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The Agricultural Origins of Urban Civilization (AgricUrb)
Start date: Feb 1, 2013, End date: Jan 31, 2017 PROJECT  FINISHED 

The establishment of farming is a pivotal moment in human history, setting the stage for the emergence of class-based society and urbanization. Monolithic views of the nature and development of early agriculture, however, have prevented clear understanding of how exactly farming fuelled, shaped and sustained the emergence of complex societies. A breakthrough in archaeological approach is needed to determine the actual roles of farming in the emergence of social complexity. The methodology required must push beyond conventional interpretation of the most direct farming evidence – archaeobotanical remains of crops and associated arable weeds – to reconstruct not only what crops were grown, but also how, where and why farming was practised. Addressing these related aspects, in contexts ranging from early agricultural villages to some of the world’s earliest cities, would provide the key to unraveling the contribution of farming to the development of lasting social inequalities. The research proposed here takes a new interdisciplinary approach combining archaeobotany, plant stable isotope chemistry and functional plant ecology, building on groundwork laid in previous research by the applicant. These approaches will be applied to two relatively well researched areas, western Asia and Europe, where a series of sites that chart multiple pathways to early complex societies offer rich plant and other bioarchaeological assemblages. The proposed project will set a wholly new standard of insight into early farming and its relationship with early civilization, facilitating similar approaches in other parts of the world and the construction of comparative perspectives on the global significance of early agriculture in social development.

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