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3.2 Yield

Yield or usefulness is generated through the interplay between environmental elements and specific human use. What is emphasised is that a landscape is not just useful, but specifically useful for a particular land-use activity. For example, a beach environment might possess a high yield for seafood processing, but a low yield for farming. The inclusion of yield values within land-use models is one means of evaluating how economic regimes adopted by Neolithic groups play out within the defined environmental niches. Each niche is assigned a series of values based upon its usefulness for farming, herding and foraging. For each land-use strategy, the highest numbers are assigned to optimal environments and the smallest to unsuitable ones. Values (see Table 1) are relative (ordinal scale) and coarse grained. Absolute values are impossible without more detailed knowledge about the Neolithic environment and economy in Calabria. Such information is currently not available, but equally unnecessary to justify specific land-use choices. Regarding the values given, for example, it is not claimed that hills are necessarily bad for farming but that they are just relatively less preferable. It is not of interest to argue in detail how much flat land is preferable to steeper places, but rather to visualise the generic structure of economic behaviours in a chosen environment. The yield values are based upon what Neolithic people need (Gregg 1988) in relation to what environmental niches provide, by comparing advantages and disadvantages for the land use envisioned. To simplify matters, the following farmer, herder and forager assumptions are reflected in the yield values attributed to each environmental niche (see Table 1). Ultimately, these could also have a role to play in the cost associated with the areas used. For more detailed information concerning yield as a dynamic concept within diachronic simulations, see Van Hove 2003, 191-92.


As erosion affects fertility and sustainability of soils, Neolithic farming land uses tend to imply an avoidance of long-term occupation of areas susceptible to heavy degradation. Similarly, beach environments are excluded, as soils are absent (Barker 1985b; Gregg 1988). The importance of soil conditions for prehistoric farmers was emphasised by Delano Smith (1979, 259, 262) and Jarman et al. (1982, 145).


A variety of environments suitable for animal grazing is used within Neolithic herding land use. Within these environments, there is no need for differentiation between level areas and hill slopes for the movement of animals. Neolithic herding areas exclude beach environments because of a lack of suitable vegetation but incorporate river channels as a suitable water resource for the animals (Barker 1985b).


Neolithic foraging implies a movement through variable regions, from hills and mountains to intermontane basins, lowland plains and river valleys. Different areas have distinct ecological characteristics and become associated with various economic and social values. The Neolithic foraging lifestyle incorporates the use of various habitats (including forest and beach) and encourages a large variety of resource strategies, such as inland and coastal fishing, gathering of legumes, small seeded cereals, wild barley, honey, nuts and herbal weeds, and sheep husbandry (Barker 1985b, 61-63; Horden and Purcell 2000, 182). Finally, Neolithic foraging land use requires the utilisation of a mixture of plant and animal resources. Their combination is dependent upon natural and social environments respectively, in conjunction with their histories and perceptions (Gregg 1988; Kelly 1995).

Niche No. EnvironmentFarmingHerdingForaging
1 Beach and dunes 1 12
2 River bottom/channel 1 2 3
3 Lowland plateau 3 3 3
4 Lowland hill 2 3 3
5 Highland plateau (altopiano) 3 3 3
6 Highland hill 2 3 3
7 Ravines/cliffs 1 1 1

Table 1: Yield values per specific land use (3 = large, 2 = medium, 1 = small)

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