The Neolithic is regarded as one of the most important developments in prehistory, a major cultural threshold marked by combined shifts in economy, technology, ideology, settlement and social organisation. Many foundational ideas about the Neolithic emerged within the context of European archaeology, and substantial work has now been directed at understanding how this ‘package’ of innovations appeared first in the Near East, and then dispersed steadily out into the rest of northwest Europe. Papers presented in this special issue are an output of the international NEOMAP Project (Neolithization and Modernization: Landscape History on East Asian Inland Seas) (2005–2012), which sought to apply two key approaches drawn from European Neolithic studies to the archaeology of East Asia: (a) the concept of Neolithization, defined as a long-term and historically-contingent process of culture-change; and (b), the contextual study of this process via the framework of cultural landscape research. This exercise has been highly productive, and provides new insights into a series of unique cultural transformations in East Asia, most of which have a very different sequence and character to those in the European Neolithic. It is hoped that, in turn, these comparative insights into the Neolithization of East Asian cultural landscapes will encourage those working on the European Neolithic to look back over their own regional datasets and critically reflect on some of their deeper assumptions about the internal logic and cultural content of the European Neolithic transition. Given the existence of so many fundamentally different kinds of Neolithic across the broader continent of Eurasia, the overall goal of this special issue is to re-kindle international debates about how best to explain each of these distinctive regional Neolithization trajectories.
Bibliographical noteThis special issue is an output of the international NEOMAP Project (‘Neolithisation and Modernisation: Landscape History on East Asian Inland Seas’, see: http://www.chikyu.ac.jp/rihn_e/project/H-04.html), which was based at the Research Institute of Humanity and Nature (RIHN) (http://www.chikyu.ac.jp/rihn_e/about.html) between 1 April 2005 and 31 March 2012 (Project Code: H-04). It was funded by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). The NEOMAP Project Leader was Junzo Uchiyama. The NEOMAP Team would like to express their deep gratitude to RIHN/MEXT for funding and hosting the project. Most of the papers in this special issue were also presented in a session entitled ‘Landscape Neolithization along East Asian Inland Seas’, organised by NEOMAP at the 2009 meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
- European Neolithic
- Transition to farming
- Cultural landscape research
- East Asia