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, 9 (5), e95714

The Near-Eastern Roots of the Neolithic in South Asia


The Near-Eastern Roots of the Neolithic in South Asia

Kavita Gangal et al. PLoS One.


The Fertile Crescent in the Near East is one of the independent origins of the Neolithic, the source from which farming and pottery-making spread across Europe from 9,000 to 6,000 years ago at an average rate of about 1 km/yr. There is also strong evidence for causal connections between the Near-Eastern Neolithic and that further east, up to the Indus Valley. The Neolithic in South Asia has been far less explored than its European counterpart, especially in terms of absolute (14)C) dating; hence, there were no previous attempts to assess quantitatively its spread in Asia. We combine the available (14)C data with the archaeological evidence for early Neolithic sites in South Asia to analyze the spatio-temporal continuity of the Neolithic dispersal from the Near East through the Middle East and to the Indian subcontinent. We reveal an approximately linear dependence between the age and the geodesic distance from the Near East, suggesting a systematic (but not necessarily uniform) spread at an average speed of about 0.65 km/yr.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


Figure 1
Figure 1. The Early Neolithic sites (10,000 BCE to 3,800 BCE) used in our analysis.
Sites shown with blue symbols have 14C dates available, and those in red are archaeologically dated. Modern national borders are shown dashed.
Figure 2
Figure 2. A linear envelope fit to the data using the weighted dates yields the average Neolithic dispersal speed km/yr.
The filled circles (red) and triangles (magenta) show the archaeologically dated sites from Iran and the Indus valley Civilization, respectively; filled circles (black) and open triangles represent sites with multiple and single 14C dates, respectively.
Figure 3
Figure 3. A linear envelope fit to the data using the 95-percentile points leads to a Neolithic dispersal speed km/yr.

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Cited by 5 PubMed Central articles


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Grant support

This work was funded by: 1. School of Mathematics and Statistics of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, 2. The Leverhulme Trust (Research Grant F/00 125/AD). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.