Neolithic Period

Definition

by Wikipedia
published on 28 April 2011
Stonehenge () The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in the Middle East that is traditionally considered the last part of the Stone Age. The Neolithic followed the terminal Holocene Epipalaeolithic periods, beginning with the rise of farming, which produced the "Neolithic Revolution" and ending when metal tools became widespread in the Copper Age (chalcolithic) or Bronze Age or developing directly into the Iron Age, depending on geographical region. The Neolithic is not a specific chronological period, but rather a suite of behavioural and cultural characteristics, including the use of wild and domestic crops and the use of domesticated animals. Neolithic culture began in the Levant near Jericho around 9500–9000 BC, when farming communities arose and spread to Asia Minor, North Africa and North Mesopotamia (even though recent findings date the beginning of the Neolithic period to as early as 10,700 BC near Aleppo). Early Neolithic farming was limited to a narrow range of plants, both wild and domesticated, which included einkorn wheat, millet and spelt, and the keeping of dogs, sheep and goats. By about 8000 BC, it included domesticated cattle and pigs, the establishment of permanently or seasonally inhabited settlements, and the use of pottery. During most of the Neolithic age, people lived in small tribes composed of multiple bands or lineages. There is little scientific evidence of developed social stratification in most Neolithic societies; social stratification is more associated with the later Bronze Age. However, Neolithic societies were noticeably more hierarchical than the Paleolithic cultures that preceded them and hunter-gatherer cultures in general. Families and households were still largely independent economically, and the household was probably the center of life. However, excavations in Central Europe have revealed that early Neolithic Linear Ceramic cultures ("Linearbandkeramik") were building large arrangements of circular ditches between 4800 BC and 4600 BC. These structures (and their later counterparts such as causewayed enclosures, burial mounds, and henge) required considerable time and labour to construct, which suggests that some influential individuals were able to organise and direct human labour — though non-hierarchical and voluntary work remain strong possibilities. A significant and far-reaching shift in human subsistence and lifestyle was to be brought about in areas where crop farming and cultivation were first developed: the previous reliance on an essentially nomadic hunter-gatherer subsistence technique or pastoral transhumance was at first supplemented, and then increasingly replaced by, a reliance upon the foods produced from cultivated lands. These developments are also believed to have greatly encouraged the growth of settlements, since it may be supposed that the increased need to spend more time and labor in tending crop fields required more localized dwellings. This trend would continue into the Bronze Age, eventually giving rise to towns, and later cities and state whose larger populations could be sustained by the increased productivity from cultivated lands. The shelter of the early people changed dramatically from the paleolithic to the neolithic era. In the paleolithic, people did not normally live in permanent constructions. In the neolithic, mud brick houses started appearing that were coated with plaster. The growth of agriculture made permanent houses possible. Doorways were made on the roof, with ladders positioned both on the inside and outside of the houses. Neolithic peoples were skilled farmers, manufacturing a range of tools necessary for the tending, harvesting and processing of crops (such as sickle blades and grinding stones) and food production (e.g. pottery, bone implements). They were also skilled manufacturers of a range of other types of stone tools and ornaments, including projectile points, beads, and statuettes. But what allowed forest clearance on a large scale was the polished stone axe above all other tools. Together with the adze, fashioning wood for shelter, structures and canoes for example, this enabled them to exploit their newly-won farmland. Neolithic peoples in the Levant, Anatolia, Syria, northern Mesopotamia and Central Asia were also accomplished builders, utilizing mud-brick to construct houses and villages. At Çatal höyük, houses were plastered and painted with elaborate scenes of humans and animals. In Europe, long houses built from wattle and daub were constructed. Elaborate tombs were built for the dead. These tombs are particularly numerous in Ireland, where there are many thousand still in existence. Neolithic people in the British Isles built long barrows and chamber tombs for their dead and causewayed camps, henges, flint mines and cursus monuments. It was also important to figure out ways of preserving food for future months, such as fashioning relatively airtight containers, and using substances like salt as preservatives.

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