Testing causal relationships expressed by mathematical models on facts about human behaviour across history is challenging. A prominent example is the Neolithic agricultural revolution . Many theoretical models of the adoption of agriculture has been put forward  but none has been tested. The only exception is , that uses a computational approach with agent-based simulations of evolutionary games. Here, we propose two games that resemble the conditions of human societies before and after the agricultural revolution. The agricultural revolution is modelled as an exogenous shock in the lab (n=180, 60 independent groups), and the transition from foraging to farming results from an equilibrium selection process decided by experimental subjects. The experimental data replicate the known facts that foragers organized themselves around division of labour  and were more egalitarian than farmers . There is also evidence of bi-modal distribution along the foraging-farming axis with many in-between groups [6, 7, 8]. These results provide direct evidence that the modes of production determine the system of values of societies (inequality) and lend support for the idea that human moved in a widespread manner from foraging to farming societies. We also find that cultural and institutional preconditions were crucial for farming , as more egalitarian foraging groups adopted earlier agricultural techniques, but inequality raises in farming societies as agriculture settles , with the long run success of agriculture being determined by the land-owner’s legitimacy. These results enrich our understanding of the Neolithic agricultural revolution and highlight the relevance of experimental methodology to generate a rich dataset that complements the fragmented evidence from archaeological sites.
Morales, A.J. & Rodriguez-Lara, I. (2020). An experiment on the Neolithic agricultural revolution. Causes and impact on inequality. ESI Working Paper 20-20. https://digitalcommons.chapman.edu/esi_working_papers/315/