Related to some of our recent discussions, Scientific American has an interesting article on the spread of farming during the neolithic. From the article:
Roughly 9,000 years ago farmers from the Middle East headed toward Europe, seeking new land to cultivate.
The farmers traveled either along the Mediterranean coast or the Danube River, encountering hunter-gatherers who lived in dense forests.
At first, the farmers and hunter-gatherers traded or mated. By 5,000 years ago, however, agriculture dominated the continent and hierarchical societies had evolved.
Genetic studies suggest that individuals with high hunter-gatherer ancestry may have been treated as inferiors.
There was a long running debate among researchers about whether the spread of farming was a diffusion of technology, or an invasion. The story pieced together by archaeologists now points more toward an invasion, with varying degrees of assimilation and intermixing, more in the southern Mediterranean arm and less in the northern Danube one, at least initially.
Reading the article, it’s hard not to picture it like George R.R. Martin’s First Men encroaching on the domains of the Children of the Forest. It’s particularly resonant because the archaeology seems to show that the descendants of the hunter-gatherers were often an underclass, especially as we begin to see signs of an increasingly stratified society in the 6700-6500 BCE period, where evidence for human sacrifice starts to show up. The article itself compares it to the relationship between the African Bantu farmers with the Pygmy forest dwellers, which had a similar dynamic.
Although their fate appears to have varied in different regions and times, it generally doesn’t sound like a happy story for the hunter-gatherers, even if our distant perspective allows us to see it as progress.