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First published July 1 2016

Cultural wave front expansion explains multiple stages of diversity during the Neolithic Transition in Europe

Cornelis Drost and Marc Vander Linden

Abstract (Excerpt)

The Axelrod model of cultural dissemination is a convenient analogue to the description of archaeological cultures based on a series of material features, such as styles of pottery, agriculture, domestication, etc. Allowing a population to spread into uninhabited, or sparsely inhabited, territory, while undergoing cultural interaction, generates a wave front containing larger homogeneous cultures, with a backwater of diversity. A very similar process is observed in the neolithic transition -the arrival of the first farming technology at the end of the Mesolithic - in south- eastern Europe (c. 8000-6000 cBC), where the first observable neolithic cultures are large and homogeneous, and these are succeeded by greater diversity. The model presented here demonstrates how the dynamics of a spreading wave can explain the observed progression from large, spreading cultures to smaller, more diverse cultures.