Debates surrounding the nature of the Neolithic demographic transition in Europe have historically centered on two opposing models: a “demic” diffusion model whereby incoming farmers from the Near East and Anatolia effectively replaced or completely assimilated indigenous Mesolithic foraging communities, and an “indigenist” model resting on the assumption that ideas relating to agriculture and animal domestication diffused from the Near East but with little or no gene flow. The extreme versions of these dichotomous models were heavily contested primarily on the basis of archeological and modern genetic data. However, in recent years a growing acceptance has arisen of the likelihood that both processes were ongoing throughout the Neolithic transition and that a more complex, regional approach is required to fully understand the change from a foraging to a primarily agricultural mode of subsistence in Europe. Craniometric data were particularly useful for testing these more complex scenarios, as they can reliably be employed as a proxy for the genetic relationships among Mesolithic and Neolithic populations. In contrast, modern genetic data assume that modern European populations accurately reflect the genetic structure of Europe at the time of the Neolithic transition, while ancient DNA data are still not geographically or temporally detailed enough to test continent-wide processes. Here, with particular emphasis on the role of craniometric analyses, we review the current state of knowledge regarding the cultural and biological nature of the Neolithic transition in Europe.
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Vol. 84 • No. 1