1st Edition

Becoming Neolithic The Pivot of Human History

By Trevor Watkins Copyright 2023
    232 Pages 47 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    232 Pages 47 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Becoming Neolithic examines the revolutionary transformation of human life that was taking place around 12,000 years ago in parts of southwest Asia. Hunter-gatherer communities were building the first permanent settlements, creating public monuments and symbolic imagery, and beginning to cultivate crops and manage animals.

    These communities changed the tempo of cultural, social, technological and economic innovation. Trevor Watkins sets the story of becoming Neolithic in the context of contemporary cultural evolutionary theory. There have been 70 years of international inter-disciplinary research in the field and in the laboratory. Stage by stage, he unfolds an up-to-date understanding of the archaeology, the environmental and climatic evidence and the research on the slow domestication of plants and animals. Turning to the latest theoretical work on cultural evolution and cultural niche construction, he shows why the transformation accomplished in the Neolithic began to accelerate the scale and tempo of human history. Everything that followed the Neolithic, up to our own times, has happened in a different way from the tens of thousands of years of human evolution that preceded it.

    This well-documented account offers a useful synthesis for students of prehistoric archaeology and anyone with an interest in our prehistoric roots. This new narrative of the first rapid transformation in human evolution is also informative to those interested in cultural evolutionary theory.


    1 A Concentration of Opportunity

    2 Changing Subsistence Strategies: Foraging to Farming

    3 Changing Subsistence Strategies: Hunting and Herding

    4 Early Epipalaeolithic – The Transformation Begins

    5 Complex Hunter-Harvesters in the Levant and beyond

    6 Early Pre-Pottery Neolithic – Transforming Their World

    7 Late Pre-Pottery Neolithic – Climax

    8 Further Transformation: Dispersal and Expansion

    9 The Evolutionary Framework for the Story

    10 The Epipalaeolithic–Neolithic Transformation: The Pivot of Cultural Evolution

    11 The Problem of Neolithic Religion

    12 The Triple A: Aggregation, Acceleration, Anthropocene


    Trevor Watkins is an emeritus professor at the University of Edinburgh where he taught prehistoric archaeology of the east Mediterranean and southwest Asia for many years. He led excavations in Cyprus, Syria, Iraq and Turkey. For many years, his research has been focused on the Neolithic period in southwest Asia, between twelve and eight thousand years ago. In recent years, he has been concentrating on relating the results of recent archaeological research to the latest theoretical work by leading researchers in cognitive archaeology and the field of cultural evolutionary theory. If evolution takes place over time, then archaeologists should be able to document and calibrate the process with material evidence.