Research Highlights | Published:

Archaeology: Adoption or migration?

Nature volume 464, page 329 (18 March 2010) | Download Citation


The origin of farming in Britain is hotly debated: did the indigenous population adopt farming practices through trade and exchange with continental Europe or did migrants bring farming from the mainland?

Mark Collard from Canada's Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, and his colleagues used radiocarbon dates to estimate prehistoric population changes in Britain. They found that about 6,000 years ago, population density increased sharply and cultivated plants occurred at around this time.

The best explanation for this is that groups of migrant farmers from mainland Europe established colonies in England and Scotland. Farming would have supported higher population densities than hunting and gathering. And if the indigenous hunter-gatherers had adopted farming from the mainland, they would have taken longer to learn it, resulting in a slower growth in population than is indicated by the data.

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