An investigation with Bayesian statistics confirms the arrival of the Neolithic to the Peninsula through the north of the Mediterranean

  • Scientific Culture and Innovation Unit
  • December 29th, 2021

Researchers from the University of Valencia (UV) and the University of Seville (US) have developed a computational methodological proposal to investigate the arrival of agriculture and livestock to the Iberian Peninsula. The work, published yesterday in the PlosOne magazine, confirms the Neolithic expansion route through the north of the Mediterranean as the main option, and that the area around Cap de la Nau, currently Xàbia, could be one of the pioneering foci that structured this expansion.

(From left to right). María Barrera, Oreto García and Alfredo Cortell.

The analysis carried out uses the information from the archaeological record compiled from the first Neolithic sites on the Mediterranean façade of the peninsula (projectile points of geometric morphology) to contrast the current hypotheses about the probable expansion routes, which include the northern route (via southern France) and the southern route (through the African Mediterranean coast).

“The variability in the forms and technological characters of the projectiles, together with the associated radiocarbon dating, have been combined through the Bayesian computational approach using different probability ranges to evaluate the possible expansion routes and the assigned points of origin (sites)”, explains Oreto García Puchol, researcher at the UV Department of Prehistory, Archaeology and Ancient History and author of the article.

“The combination of archaeological information with computational methodologies, which include advanced statistics, Bayesian inference, simulation and mathematical modelling has offered, in this case, a new way of collaboration between traditional Archaeology and Data Science”, according to Oreto García, also Director of the Master’s Degree in Archaeology. This fact contributes to position Archaeology as a candidate to contribute to the challenges posed by the computerisation of science in the Information Society.

The work, in addition to Oreto García, has been prepared by Alfredo Cortell Nicolau (UV and currently at the University of Cambridge), Daniel García Rivero (US) and the pre-doctoral researcher María Barrera Cruz (UV).


Article: Cortell-Nicolau A, Garcia-Puchol O, Barrera-Cruz M, Garcia-Rivero D (2021). «The spread of agriculture in Iberia through Approximate Bayesian Computation and Neolithic projectile tools». PLoS ONE 16(12): e0261813.