This innovative study analyzes the great cultural and economic changes occurring in the Near East between 10,000 and 7,000 BC as Palaeolithic societies of hunter-gatherers gave way to village communities of Neolithic food-producers. Challenging the orthodox, materialist interpretations, and drawing on French theories of mentalities, Jacques Cauvin argues that the Neolithic revolution must be understood as an intellectual transformation, revealing itself above all in symbolic activities. He describes the emergence of the first agricultural villages, pastoralism and nomadism, and the diffusion of Neolithic ideas and practice to the region's periphery.
List of plates; List of figures; Translator's note; Foreword; Preface; Chronological table; Introduction; Part I. The Origins of Agriculture: 1. Natural environment and human cultures on the eve of the Neolithic; 2. The first pre-agricultural villages: the Natufian; 3. The Revolution in symbols and the origins of Neolithic religion; 4. The first farmers: the socio-cultural context; 5. The first farmers: strategies of subsistence; 6. Agriculture, population, society: an assessment; 7. The Neolithic Revolution: a transformation of the mind; Part II. The Beginnings of Neolithic Diffusion: 8. A geographical and chronological framework for the first stages of diffusion; 9. The birth of a culture in the northern Levant and the neolithisation of Anatolia; 10. Diffusion into the central and southern Levant; 11. The evidence of symbolism in the southern Levant; 12. The dynamics of a dominant culture; Part III. The Great Exodus: 13. The problem of diffusion in the Neolithic; 14. The completion of the neolithic process in the 'Levantine nucleus'; 15. The arrival of farmers on the Mediterranean littoral and in Cyprus; 16. The sedentary peoples push east: the eastern Jezirah and the Syrian desert; 17. Pastoral nomadism; 18. Hypotheses for the spread of the Neolithic; Conclusion; Postscript; Notes; Bibliography; Index.