Hilly Flanks

Hilly Flanks and the Hilly Flanks Theory of Agriculture

Dena mountain in the Zagros mountains.

Vah.hem / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 

Hilly flanks is a geographic term referring to the wooded lower slopes of a mountain range. In particular, and in archaeological science, Hilly Flanks refers to the lower slopes of the Zagros and Tauros mountains that make up the western fringe of the Fertile Crescent, in southwestern Asia within the modern countries of Iraq, Iran and Turkey. Here is where archaeological evidence has shown that the first invention of agriculture took place.

First postulated as the place of origin for agriculture by archaeologist Robert Braidwood in the late 1940s, the Hilly Flanks theory argued that the ideal location for the beginnings of agriculture would be an upland region with sufficient rainfall to make irrigation unnecessary. Further, Braidwood argued, it would have to be a place that was a suitable habitat for the wild ancestors of the first domesticated animals and plants. And, subsequent investigation has shown that the hilly flanks of the Zagros are indeed the native habitat for animals such as goats, sheep, and pigs, and plants such as chickpea, wheat and barley.

The Hilly Flanks theory was in direct contrast to V.G. Childe's Oasis Theory, although both Childe and Braidwood believed that agriculture is something that would be a technological improvement that people instantly embraced, something archaeological evidence has shown to be faulty.

Sites in the hilly flanks that have shown evidence supporting Braidwood's Hilly Flanks theory include Jarmo (Iraq) and Ganj Dareh (Iran).

Sources and Further Information

This glossary entry is a part of the About.com Guide to the Neolithic, and the Dictionary of Archaeology.

Bogucki P. 2008. EUROPE | Neolithic. In: Deborah MP, editor. Encyclopedia of Archaeology. New York: Academic Press. p 1175-1187.

Watson PJ. 2006. Robert John Braidwood [1907-2003]: A biographical memoir. Washington DC: National Academy of Sciences 23 p.

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Hirst, K. Kris. "Hilly Flanks." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, thoughtco.com/hilly-flanks-theory-agriculture-171269. Hirst, K. Kris. (2020, August 28). Hilly Flanks. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/hilly-flanks-theory-agriculture-171269 Hirst, K. Kris. "Hilly Flanks." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/hilly-flanks-theory-agriculture-171269 (accessed June 1, 2023).