If you need an accessible version of this item please contact JSTOR User Support

How the West Was Lost A Reconsideration of Agricultural Origins in Britain, Ireland, and Southern Scandinavia

Peter RowleyConwy
Current Anthropology
Vol. 45, No. S4, Special Issue Agricultural Origins and Dispersal into Europe (August/October 2004), pp. S83-S113
DOI: 10.1086/422083
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/422083
Page Count: 31
  • Download PDF
  • Cite this Item

You are not currently logged in.

Access your personal account or get JSTOR access through your library or other institution:


Log in to your personal account or through your institution.

If you need an accessible version of this item please contact JSTOR User Support
How the West Was Lost


Postprocessual views of the transition to agriculture in Northwestern Europe have sought to decouple ideology and subsistence economy as a means of protecting the status of ideology as the sole cause of change. Ideology (as reflected in material culture and monument building) changed abruptly. To achieve the required decoupling, subsistence is therefore portrayed as having changed slowly. This implies three things: (1) Mesolithic foragers were gradually intensifying their subsistence economy. (2) Neolithic people subsisted mainly on wild animals and plants and were nomadic. (3) Subsistence change across the ideological transition was slow, continuous, and seamless. Many other scholars, although not postprocessualists, have come to accept these three points. But as the postprocessual view has become the consensus, the data from Britain, Ireland, and southern Scandinavia have all been leading in the opposite direction: (1) There is no reason to think that Mesolithic foragers were intensifying economically. (2) Neolithic people subsisted mainly on cultivated plants and domestic animals and were fully sedentary. (3) The transition to agriculture was rapid and probably traumatic. The current consensus has yet to incorporate these data into its explanatory framework.

Page Thumbnails