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The Transition to Agriculture: Climate Reversals, Population Density, and Technical Change

Gregory Dow, Nancy Olewiler and Clyde G. Reed
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Nancy Olewiler: Simon Fraser University
Clyde G. Reed: Simon Fraser University

Economic History from EconWPA

Abstract: Until about 13,000 years ago all humans obtained their food through hunting and gathering, but thereafter people in some parts of the world began a transition to agriculture. Recent data strongly implicate climate change as the driving force behind the agricultural transition in southwest Asia. We propose a model of this process in which population and technology respond endogenously to climate. The key idea is that after a lengthy period of favorable environmental conditions during which regional population grew significantly, an abrupt climate reversal forced people to take refuge at a few ecologically favored sites. The resulting spike in local population density reduced the marginal product of labor in foraging and made agriculture attractive. Once agriculture was initiated, rapid technological progress through artificial selection on plant characteristics led to domesticated varieties. Farming became a permanent part of the regional economy when this productivity growth was combined with climate recovery

Keywords: origins of agriculture; foraging; hunting and gathering; climate change; population density; technical change; domestication; archaeology; anthropology; economic prehistory (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: N (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-agr, nep-eff and nep-env
Date: 2005-09-09
Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 42. 42 page pdf file including title page, 6 pages of references, and 6 figures
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