He is a world expert on archaeology. Jean Guilaine, archaeologist, director of research at CNRS, director of studies at EHESS, is honorary professor at the Collège de France, where he held the chair of Civilization of Europe in the Neolithic and Bronze Age. He is a member of the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres.
He devoted most of his career to the Neolithic, which he considers the very beginning of the historical world. He has just released two fascinating works: Dawn of the Reapers. From the Neolithic in particular and archeology in generalpublished by Verdier and A desire for history. The childhood of an archaeologist at Odile Jacob’s.
How can we characterize the Neolithic period that is the focus of your research?
For roughly three million years, humans were predators who lived by hunting or gathering resources that nature provided. So this condition had a very, very long trajectory. However, roughly ten to twelve thousand years ago, i.e. yesterday in terms of evolution, men and women gradually profoundly changed their way of life and eating.
They settled in permanent settlements, grouped themselves in villages and began to cultivate living things, whether plant or animal. They now obtained their food from the grains and legumes they grew, ate the meat and drank the milk of the animals they raised.
This profound mutation took place in several “laboratories” where plants and animals lived