Neolithic

The Neolithic (/ˌniːəˈlɪθɪk/ (listen),[1] also known as the "New Stone Age"), the final division of the Stone Age, began about 12,000 years ago when the first development of farming appeared in the Epipalaeolithic Near East, and later in other parts of the world. The division lasted until the transitional period of the Chalcolithic from about 6,500 years ago (4500 BC), marked by the development of metallurgy, leading up to the Bronze Age and Iron Age. In Northern Europe, the Neolithic lasted until about 1700 BC, while in China it extended until 1200 BC. Other parts of the world (including the New World) remained broadly in the Neolithic stage of development, although this term may not be used, until European contact.

The Neolithic comprises a progression of behavioral and cultural characteristics and changes, including the use of wild and domestic crops and of domesticated animals.[a]

The term Neolithic derives from the Greek νέος néos, "new" and λίθος líthos, "stone", literally meaning "New Stone Age". The term was coined by Sir John Lubbock in 1865 as a refinement of the three-age system.[2]

Origin

Centres of origin and spread of agriculture
Approximate centers of origin of agriculture in the Neolithic revolution and its spread in prehistory: the Fertile Crescent (11,000 BP), the Yangtze and Yellow River basins (9,000 BP) and the New Guinea Highlands (9,000–6,000 BP), Central Mexico (5,000–4,000 BP), Northern South America (5,000–4,000 BP), sub-Saharan Africa (5,000–4,000 BP, exact location unknown), eastern North America (4,000–3,000 BP).[3]

Following the ASPRO chronology, the Neolithic started in around 10,200 BC in the Levant, arising from the Natufian culture, when pioneering use of wild cereals evolved into early farming. The Natufian period or "proto-Neolithic" lasted from 12,500 to 9,500 BC, and is taken to overlap with the Pre-Pottery Neolithic (PPNA) of 10,200–8800 BC. As the Natufians had become dependent on wild cereals in their diet, and a sedentary way of life had begun among them, the climatic changes associated with the Younger Dryas (about 10,000 BC) are thought to have forced people to develop farming.

By 10,200–8800 BC farming communities had arisen in the Levant and spread to Asia Minor, North Africa and North Mesopotamia. Mesopotamia is the site of the earliest developments of the Neolithic Revolution from around 10,000 BC.

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 6900–6400 BC, it included domesticated cattle and pigs, the establishment of permanently or seasonally inhabited settlements, and the use of pottery.[b]

Not all of these cultural elements characteristic of the Neolithic appeared everywhere in the same order: the earliest farming societies in the Near East did not use pottery. In other parts of the world, such as Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia, independent domestication events led to their own regionally distinctive Neolithic cultures, which arose completely independently of those in Europe and Southwest Asia. Early Japanese societies and other East Asian cultures used pottery before developing agriculture.[4][5]

Periods by pottery phase

Néolithique 0001
An array of Neolithic artifacts, including bracelets, axe heads, chisels, and polishing tools. Neolithic stone artifacts are by definition polished and, except for specialty items, not chipped.

In the Middle East, cultures identified as Neolithic began appearing in the 10th millennium BC.[6] Early development occurred in the Levant (e.g., Pre-Pottery Neolithic A and Pre-Pottery Neolithic B) and from there spread eastwards and westwards. Neolithic cultures are also attested in southeastern Anatolia and northern Mesopotamia by around 8000 BC.

The prehistoric Beifudi site near Yixian in Hebei Province, China, contains relics of a culture contemporaneous with the Cishan and Xinglongwa cultures of about 6000–5000 BC, neolithic cultures east of the Taihang Mountains, filling in an archaeological gap between the two Northern Chinese cultures. The total excavated area is more than 1,200 square yards (1,000 m2; 0.10 ha), and the collection of neolithic findings at the site encompasses two phases.[7]

Neolithic 1 – Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA)

The Neolithic 1 (PPNA) period began roughly around 10,000 BC in the Levant.[6] A temple area in southeastern Turkey at Göbekli Tepe, dated to around 9500 BC, may be regarded as the beginning of the period. This site was developed by nomadic hunter-gatherer tribes, as evidenced by the lack of permanent housing in the vicinity, and may be the oldest known human-made place of worship.[8] At least seven stone circles, covering 25 acres (10 ha), contain limestone pillars carved with animals, insects, and birds. Stone tools were used by perhaps as many as hundreds of people to create the pillars, which might have supported roofs. Other early PPNA sites dating to around 9500–9000 BC have been found in Jericho, West Bank (notably Ain Mallaha, Nahal Oren, and Kfar HaHoresh), Gilgal in the Jordan Valley, and Byblos, Lebanon. The start of Neolithic 1 overlaps the Tahunian and Heavy Neolithic periods to some degree.

The major advance of Neolithic 1 was true farming. In the proto-Neolithic Natufian cultures, wild cereals were harvested, and perhaps early seed selection and re-seeding occurred. The grain was ground into flour. Emmer wheat was domesticated, and animals were herded and domesticated (animal husbandry and selective breeding).

In 2006, remains of figs were discovered in a house in Jericho dated to 9400 BC. The figs are of a mutant variety that cannot be pollinated by insects, and therefore the trees can only reproduce from cuttings. This evidence suggests that figs were the first cultivated crop and mark the invention of the technology of farming. This occurred centuries before the first cultivation of grains.[9]

Settlements became more permanent, with circular houses, much like those of the Natufians, with single rooms. However, these houses were for the first time made of mudbrick. The settlement had a surrounding stone wall and perhaps a stone tower (as in Jericho). The wall served as protection from nearby groups, as protection from floods, or to keep animals penned. Some of the enclosures also suggest grain and meat storage.

Neolithic 2 – Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB)

Neolitico B, fugurine maschile e femminile, da tell fakhariyah, alabastro, bitume e pietra, 9000-7000 ac ca
Female and male figurines; 9000-7000 BC; gypsum with bitumen and stone inlays; from Tell Fekheriye (Al-Hasakah Governorate of Syria); University of Chicago Oriental Institute (USA)

The Neolithic 2 (PPNB) began around 8800 BC according to the ASPRO chronology in the Levant (Jericho, Palestine).[6] As with the PPNA dates, there are two versions from the same laboratories noted above. This system of terminology, however, is not convenient for southeast Anatolia and settlements of the middle Anatolia basin. A settlement of 3,000 inhabitants was found in the outskirts of Amman, Jordan. Considered to be one of the largest prehistoric settlements in the Near East, called 'Ain Ghazal, it was continuously inhabited from approximately 7250 BC to approximately 5000 BC.[10]

Settlements have rectangular mud-brick houses where the family lived together in single or multiple rooms. Burial findings suggest an ancestor cult where people preserved skulls of the dead, which were plastered with mud to make facial features. The rest of the corpse could have been left outside the settlement to decay until only the bones were left, then the bones were buried inside the settlement underneath the floor or between houses.

Neolithic 3 – Pottery Neolithic (PN)

The Neolithic 3 (PN) began around 6,400 BC in the Fertile Crescent.[6] By then distinctive cultures emerged, with pottery like the Halafian (Turkey, Syria, Northern Mesopotamia) and Ubaid (Southern Mesopotamia). This period has been further divided into PNA (Pottery Neolithic A) and PNB (Pottery Neolithic B) at some sites.[11]

The Chalcolithic (Stone-Bronze) period began about 4500 BC, then the Bronze Age began about 3500 BC, replacing the Neolithic cultures.[12]

Periods by region

Western Asia

Fertile Crescent

20100923 amman37
'Ain Ghazal Statues found at 'Ain Ghazal in Jordan, are considered to be one of the earliest large-scale representations of the human form dating back to around 7250 BC.

Around 10,000 BC the first fully developed Neolithic cultures belonging to the phase Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) appeared in the Fertile Crescent.[6] Around 10,700–9400 BC a settlement was established in Tell Qaramel, 10 miles (16 km) north of Aleppo. The settlement included two temples dating to 9650 BC.[13] Around 9000 BC during the PPNA, one of the world's first towns, Jericho, appeared in the Levant. It was surrounded by a stone wall and contained a population of 2,000–3,000 people and a massive stone tower.[14] Around 6400 BC the Halaf culture appeared in Syria and Northern Mesopotamia.

In 1981 a team of researchers from the Maison de l'Orient et de la Méditerranée, including Jacques Cauvin and Oliver Aurenche divided Near East neolithic chronology into ten periods (0 to 9) based on social, economic and cultural characteristics.[15] In 2002 Danielle Stordeur and Frédéric Abbès advanced this system with a division into five periods.

  1. Natufian between 12,000 and 10,200 BC,
  2. Khiamian between 10,200 and 8800 BC, PPNA: Sultanian (Jericho), Mureybetian,
  3. Early PPNB (PPNB ancien) between 8800 and 7600 BC, middle PPNB (PPNB moyen) between 7600 and 6900 BC,
  4. Late PPNB (PPNB récent) between 7500 and 7000 BC,
  5. A PPNB (sometimes called PPNC) transitional stage (PPNB final) in which Halaf and dark faced burnished ware begin to emerge between 6900 and 6400 BC.[16]

They also advanced the idea of a transitional stage between the PPNA and PPNB between 8800 and 8600 BC at sites like Jerf el Ahmar and Tell Aswad.[17]

Southern Mesopotamia

Alluvial plains (Sumer/Elam). Low rainfall makes irrigation systems necessary. Ubaid culture from 6,900 BC.

North Africa

African cave paintings
Algerian cave paintings depicting hunting scenes

Domestication of sheep and goats reached Egypt from the Near East possibly as early as 6000 BC.[18][19][20] Graeme Barker states "The first indisputable evidence for domestic plants and animals in the Nile valley is not until the early fifth millennium BC in northern Egypt and a thousand years later further south, in both cases as part of strategies that still relied heavily on fishing, hunting, and the gathering of wild plants" and suggests that these subsistence changes were not due to farmers migrating from the Near East but was an indigenous development, with cereals either indigenous or obtained through exchange.[21] Other scholars argue that the primary stimulus for agriculture and domesticated animals (as well as mud-brick architecture and other Neolithic cultural features) in Egypt was from the Middle East.[22][23][24]

Europe

Golemata Majka
Female figure from Tumba Madžari, North Macedonia
European-late-neolithic-english
Map showing distribution of some of the main culture complexes in Neolithic Europe, c. 3500 BC
Skara Brae house 1 5
Skara Brae, Scotland. Evidence of home furnishings (shelves)

In southeast Europe agrarian societies first appeared in the 7th millennium BC, attested by one of the earliest farming sites of Europe, discovered in Vashtëmi, southeastern Albania and dating back to 6500 BC.[25][26] In Northwest Europe it is much later, typically lasting just under 3,000 years from c. 4500 BC–1700 BC.

Anthropomorphic figurines have been found in the Balkans from 6000 BC,[27] and in Central Europe by around 5800 BC (La Hoguette). Among the earliest cultural complexes of this area are the Sesklo culture in Thessaly, which later expanded in the Balkans giving rise to Starčevo-Körös (Cris), Linearbandkeramik, and Vinča. Through a combination of cultural diffusion and migration of peoples, the Neolithic traditions spread west and northwards to reach northwestern Europe by around 4500 BC. The Vinča culture may have created the earliest system of writing, the Vinča signs, though archaeologist Shan Winn believes they most likely represented pictograms and ideograms rather than a truly developed form of writing.[28]

The Cucuteni-Trypillian culture built enormous settlements in Romania, Moldova and Ukraine from 5300 to 2300 BC. The megalithic temple complexes of Ġgantija on the Mediterranean island of Gozo (in the Maltese archipelago) and of Mnajdra (Malta) are notable for their gigantic Neolithic structures, the oldest of which date back to around 3600 BC. The Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni, Paola, Malta, is a subterranean structure excavated around 2500 BC; originally a sanctuary, it became a necropolis, the only prehistoric underground temple in the world, and shows a degree of artistry in stone sculpture unique in prehistory to the Maltese islands. After 2500 BC, these islands were depopulated for several decades until the arrival of a new influx of Bronze Age immigrants, a culture that cremated its dead and introduced smaller megalithic structures called dolmens to Malta.[29] In most cases there are small chambers here, with the cover made of a large slab placed on upright stones. They are claimed to belong to a population different from that which built the previous megalithic temples. It is presumed the population arrived from Sicily because of the similarity of Maltese dolmens to some small constructions found there.[30]

South and East Asia

The earliest Neolithic sites in South Asia are Bhirrana in Haryana dated to 7570-6200 BC,[31] and Mehrgarh, dated to between 6500 and 5500 BC, in the Kachi plain of Baluchistan, Pakistan; the site has evidence of farming (wheat and barley) and herding (cattle, sheep and goats).

In South India, the Neolithic began by 6500 BC and lasted until around 1400 BC when the Megalithic transition period began. South Indian Neolithic is characterized by Ash mounds from 2500 BC in Karnataka region, expanded later to Tamil Nadu.[32]

In East Asia, the earliest sites include the Nanzhuangtou culture around 9500–9000 BC,[33] Pengtoushan culture around 7500–6100 BC, and Peiligang culture around 7000–5000 BC.

The 'Neolithic' (defined in this paragraph as using polished stone implements) remains a living tradition in small and extremely remote and inaccessible pockets of West Papua (Indonesian New Guinea). Polished stone adze and axes are used in the present day (as of 2008) in areas where the availability of metal implements is limited. This is likely to cease altogether in the next few years as the older generation die off and steel blades and chainsaws prevail.

In 2012, news was released about a new farming site discovered in Munam-ri, Goseong, Gangwon Province, South Korea, which may be the earliest farmland known to date in east Asia.[34] "No remains of an agricultural field from the Neolithic period have been found in any East Asian country before, the institute said, adding that the discovery reveals that the history of agricultural cultivation at least began during the period on the Korean Peninsula".[35] The farm was dated between 3600 and 3000 BC. Pottery, stone projectile points, and possible houses were also found. "In 2002, researchers discovered prehistoric earthenware, jade earrings, among other items in the area". The research team will perform accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) dating to retrieve a more precise date for the site.

The Americas

In Mesoamerica, a similar set of events (i.e., crop domestication and sedentary lifestyles) occurred by around 4500 BC, but possibly as early as 11,000–10,000 BC. These cultures are usually not referred to as belonging to the Neolithic; in America different terms are used such as Formative stage instead of mid-late Neolithic, Archaic Era instead of Early Neolithic and Paleo-Indian for the preceding period.[36] The Formative stage is equivalent to the Neolithic Revolution period in Europe, Asia, and Africa. In the southwestern United States it occurred from 500 to 1200 AD when there was a dramatic increase in population and development of large villages supported by agriculture based on dryland farming of maize, and later, beans, squash, and domesticated turkeys. During this period the bow and arrow and ceramic pottery were also introduced.[37] In later periods cities of considerable size developed, and some metallurgy by 700 BCE.[38]

Australia

Australia, in contrast to New Guinea, has generally been held not to have had a Neolithic period, with a hunter-gatherer lifestyle continuing until the arrival of Europeans. This view can be challenged in terms of the definition of agriculture, but "Neolithic" remains a rarely-used and not very useful concept in discussing Australian prehistory.[39]

Cultural characteristics

Social organization

Néolithique 0008
Anthropomorphic Neolithic figurine
MotherGoddessFertility
Anthropomorphic Female Neolithic ceramic figurine

During most of the Neolithic age of Eurasia, people lived in small tribes composed of multiple bands or lineages.[40] There is little scientific evidence of developed social stratification in most Neolithic societies; social stratification is more associated with the later Bronze Age.[41] Although some late Eurasian Neolithic societies formed complex stratified chiefdoms or even states, generally states evolved in Eurasia only with the rise of metallurgy, and most Neolithic societies on the whole were relatively simple and egalitarian.[40] Beyond Eurasia, however, states were formed during the local Neolithic in three areas, namely in the Preceramic Andes with the Norte Chico Civilization,[42][43] Formative Mesoamerica and Ancient Hawaiʻi.[44] However, most Neolithic societies were noticeably more hierarchical than the Upper Paleolithic cultures that preceded them and hunter-gatherer cultures in general.[45][46]

Clay human figurine (Fertility goddess) Tappeh Sarab, Kermanshah ca. 7000-6100 BCE Neolithic period, National Museum of Iran
Clay human figurine (Fertility goddess) Tappeh Sarab, Kermanshah ca. 7000-6100 BC, Neolithic period, National Museum of Iran

The domestication of large animals (c. 8000 BC) resulted in a dramatic increase in social inequality in most of the areas where it occurred; New Guinea being a notable exception.[47] Possession of livestock allowed competition between households and resulted in inherited inequalities of wealth. Neolithic pastoralists who controlled large herds gradually acquired more livestock, and this made economic inequalities more pronounced.[48] However, evidence of social inequality is still disputed, as settlements such as Catal Huyuk reveal a striking lack of difference in the size of homes and burial sites, suggesting a more egalitarian society with no evidence of the concept of capital, although some homes do appear slightly larger or more elaborately decorated than others.

Families and households were still largely independent economically, and the household was probably the center of life.[49][50] However, excavations in Central Europe have revealed that early Neolithic Linear Ceramic cultures ("Linearbandkeramik") were building large arrangements of circular ditches between 4800 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 possibilities.

There is a large body of evidence for fortified settlements at Linearbandkeramik sites along the Rhine, as at least some villages were fortified for some time with a palisade and an outer ditch.[51][52] Settlements with palisades and weapon-traumatized bones, such as those found at the Talheim Death Pit, have been discovered and demonstrate that "...systematic violence between groups" and warfare was probably much more common during the Neolithic than in the preceding Paleolithic period.[46] This supplanted an earlier view of the Linear Pottery Culture as living a "peaceful, unfortified lifestyle".[53]

Control of labour and inter-group conflict is characteristic of tribal groups with social rank that are headed by a charismatic individual — either a 'big man' or a proto-chief — functioning as a lineage-group head. Whether a non-hierarchical system of organization existed is debatable, and there is no evidence that explicitly suggests that Neolithic societies functioned under any dominating class or individual, as was the case in the chiefdoms of the European Early Bronze Age.[54] Theories to explain the apparent implied egalitarianism of Neolithic (and Paleolithic) societies have arisen, notably the Marxist concept of primitive communism.

Shelter and sedentism

Neolithic house
Reconstruction of Neolithic house in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina

The shelter of the early people changed dramatically from the Upper 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.[55] 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.[55] The roof was supported by beams from the inside. The rough ground was covered by platforms, mats, and skins on which residents slept.[56] Stilt-houses settlements were common in the Alpine and Pianura Padana (Terramare) region.[57] Remains have been found at the Ljubljana Marshes in Slovenia and at the Mondsee and Attersee lakes in Upper Austria, for example.

Agriculture

HMB Essen und Kochgerät Jungsteinzeit
Food and cooking items retrieved at a European Neolithic site: millstones, charred bread, grains and small apples, a clay cooking pot, and containers made of antlers and wood

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 permanently settled farming towns, and later cities and states whose larger populations could be sustained by the increased productivity from cultivated lands.

The profound differences in human interactions and subsistence methods associated with the onset of early agricultural practices in the Neolithic have been called the Neolithic Revolution, a term coined in the 1920s by the Australian archaeologist Vere Gordon Childe.

One potential benefit of the development and increasing sophistication of farming technology was the possibility of producing surplus crop yields, in other words, food supplies in excess of the immediate needs of the community. Surpluses could be stored for later use, or possibly traded for other necessities or luxuries. Agricultural life afforded securities that nomadic life could not, and sedentary farming populations grew faster than nomadic.

However, early farmers were also adversely affected in times of famine, such as may be caused by drought or pests. In instances where agriculture had become the predominant way of life, the sensitivity to these shortages could be particularly acute, affecting agrarian populations to an extent that otherwise may not have been routinely experienced by prior hunter-gatherer communities.[48] Nevertheless, agrarian communities generally proved successful, and their growth and the expansion of territory under cultivation continued.

Another significant change undergone by many of these newly agrarian communities was one of diet. Pre-agrarian diets varied by region, season, available local plant and animal resources and degree of pastoralism and hunting. Post-agrarian diet was restricted to a limited package of successfully cultivated cereal grains, plants and to a variable extent domesticated animals and animal products. Supplementation of diet by hunting and gathering was to variable degrees precluded by the increase in population above the carrying capacity of the land and a high sedentary local population concentration. In some cultures, there would have been a significant shift toward increased starch and plant protein. The relative nutritional benefits and drawbacks of these dietary changes and their overall impact on early societal development are still debated.

In addition, increased population density, decreased population mobility, increased continuous proximity to domesticated animals, and continuous occupation of comparatively population-dense sites would have altered sanitation needs and patterns of disease.

Lithic technology

The identifying characteristic of Neolithic technology is the use of polished or ground stone tools, in contrast to the flaked stone tools used during the Paleolithic era.

Neolithic people 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 Çatalhöyük, 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.

The peoples of the Americas and the Pacific mostly retained the Neolithic level of tool technology until the time of European contact. Exceptions include copper hatchets and spearheads in the Great Lakes region.

Clothing

Most clothing appears to have been made of animal skins, as indicated by finds of large numbers of bone and antler pins that are ideal for fastening leather. Wool cloth and linen might have become available during the later Neolithic,[58][59] as suggested by finds of perforated stones that (depending on size) may have served as spindle whorls or loom weights.[60][61][62] The clothing worn in the Neolithic Age might be similar to that worn by Ötzi the Iceman, although he was not Neolithic (since he belonged to the later Copper age).

List of early settlements

Tripolye hut
Reconstruction of a Cucuteni-Trypillian hut, in the Tripillian Museum, Ukraine
CatalHoyukSouthArea
archaeological site of Çatalhöyük in the Konya Plain in Turkey

Neolithic human settlements include:

name location early date late date comments
Göbekli Tepe Turkey 10,000[63] 8000
Guilá Naquitz Cave Oaxaca, Mexico 11,000
Tell Qaramel Syria 10,700[64] 9400
Franchthi Cave Greece 10,000 reoccupied between 7500 and 6000 BC
Nanzhuangtou Hebei, China 9500 9000
Byblos Lebanon 8800 7000[65]
Jericho West bank 8350 arising from the earlier Epipaleolithic Natufian culture
Aşıklı Höyük Central Anatolia, Turkey, an Aceramic Neolithic period settlement 8200 7400 correlating with the E/MPPNB in the Levant
Nevali Cori Turkey 8000
Pengtoushan culture China 7500 6100 rice residues were carbon-14 dated to 8200–7800 BC
Çatalhöyük Turkey 7500
Mentesh Tepe and Kamiltepe Azerbaijan 7000 3000[66]
'Ain Ghazal Jordan 7250 5000
Chogha Bonut Iran 7200
Jhusi India 7100
Ganj Dareh Iran 7000
Lahuradewa India 7000 [67]
Jiahu China 7000 5800
Knossus Crete 7000
Khirokitia Cyprus 7000 4000
Sesklo Greece 6850 with a 660-year margin of error
Mehrgarh Pakistan 6500 5500
Porodin North Macedonia 6500[68]
Padah-Lin Caves Burma 6000
Petnica Serbia 6000
Stara Zagora Bulgaria 5500
Cucuteni-Trypillian culture Ukraine, Moldova and Romania 5500 2750
Tell Zeidan northern Syria 5500 4000
Tabon Cave Complex Quezon, Palawan, Philippines 5000 2000[69][70]
Hemudu culture, large-scale rice plantation China 5000 4500
The Megalithic Temples of Malta Malta 3600
Knap of Howar and Skara Brae Orkney, Scotland 3500 3100
Brú na Bóinne Ireland 3500
Lough Gur Ireland 3000
Norte Chico civilization, 30 aceramic Neolithic period settlements northern coastal Peru 3000 1700
Tichit Neolithic village on the Tagant Plateau central southern Mauritania 2000 500
Oaxaca, state Southwestern Mexico 2000 by 2000 BC Neolithic sedentary villages had been established in the Central Valleys region of this state.
Lajia China 2000
Mumun pottery period Korean Peninsula 1800 1500
Neolithic revolution Japan 500 300

The world's oldest known engineered roadway, the Sweet Track in England, dates from 3800 BC and the world's oldest freestanding structure is the neolithic temple of Ġgantija in Gozo, Malta.

List of cultures and sites

The Neolithic
Mesolithic
Fertile Crescent
Heavy Neolithic
Shepherd Neolithic
Trihedral Neolithic
Pre-Pottery (A, B)
Qaraoun culture
Tahunian culture
Yarmukian Culture
Halaf culture
Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period
Ubaid culture
Nile valley
Faiyum A culture
Tasian culture
Merimde culture
El Omari culture
Maadi culture
Badari culture
Amratian culture
Europe
Arzachena culture
Boian culture
Butmir culture
Cardium Pottery culture
Cernavodă culture
Coțofeni culture
Cucuteni-Trypillian culture
Dudeşti culture
Gorneşti culture
Gumelniţa–Karanovo culture
Hamangia culture
Khirokitia
Linear Pottery culture
Malta Temples
Ozieri culture
Petreşti culture
San Ciriaco culture
Shulaveri-Shomu culture
Sesklo culture
Tisza culture
Tiszapolgár culture
Usatovo culture
Varna culture
Vinča culture
Vučedol culture
Neolithic Transylvania
Neolithic Southeastern Europe
China
Peiligang culture
Pengtoushan culture
Beixin culture
Cishan culture
Dadiwan culture
Houli culture
Xinglongwa culture
Xinle culture
Zhaobaogou culture
Hemudu culture
Daxi culture
Majiabang culture
Yangshao culture
Hongshan culture
Dawenkou culture
Songze culture
Liangzhu culture
Majiayao culture
Qujialing culture
Longshan culture
Baodun culture
Shijiahe culture
Yueshi culture
Tibet
South Asia
Mehrgarh
Chirand
Mundigak
Brahmagiri
Philippine Jade culture
Capsian culture
Savanna Pastoral Neolithic

farming, animal husbandry
pottery, metallurgy, wheel
circular ditches, henges, megaliths
Neolithic religion

Chalcolithic

Note: Dates are very approximate, and are only given for a rough estimate; consult each culture for specific time periods.

Early Neolithic
Periodization: The Levant: 9500–8000 BC; Europe: 5000–4000 BC; Elsewhere: varies greatly, depending on region.


Middle Neolithic
Periodization: The Levant: 8000–6000 BC; Europe: 4000–3500 BC; Elsewhere: varies greatly, depending on region.

Later Neolithic
Periodization: 6500–4500 BC; Europe: 3500–3000 BC; Elsewhere: varies greatly, depending on region.

Eneolithic

Periodization: Near East: 4500–3300 BC; Europe: 3000–1700 BC; Elsewhere: varies greatly, depending on region. In the Americas, the Eneolithic ended as late as the 19th century AD for some peoples.

See also

  • Portal-puzzle.svg Neolithic portal

Notes

  1. ^ Some archaeologists have long advocated replacing "Neolithic" with a more descriptive term, such as "Early Village Communities", but this has not gained wide acceptance.
  2. ^ The potter's wheel was a later refinement that revolutionized pottery-making.

References

Citations

  1. ^ "Neolithic: definition of Neolithic in Oxford dictionary (British & World English)".
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Sources

External links

Cardium pottery

Cardium pottery or Cardial ware is a Neolithic decorative style that gets its name from the imprinting of the clay with the shell of the cockle, an edible marine mollusk formerly known as Cardium edulis (now Cerastoderma edule). These forms of pottery are in turn used to define the Neolithic culture which produced and spread them, mostly commonly called the "Cardial culture".

The alternative name impressed ware is given by some archaeologists to define this culture, because impressions can be with sharp objects other than cockle shell, such as a nail or comb. Impressed pottery is much more widespread than the Cardial. Impressed ware is found in the zone "covering Italy to the Ligurian coast" as distinct from the more western Cardial extending from Provence to western Portugal. The sequence in prehistoric Europe has traditionally been supposed to start with widespread Cardial ware, and then to develop other methods of impression locally, termed "epi-Cardial". However the widespread Cardial and Impressed pattern types overlap and are now considered more likely to be contemporary.

Göbekli Tepe

Göbekli Tepe (pronounced [ɟœbecˈli teˈpe]), Turkish for "Potbelly Hill", is an archaeological site in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey, approximately 12 km (7 mi) northeast of the city of Şanlıurfa. The tell has a height of 15 m (49 ft) and is about 300 m (980 ft) in diameter. It is approximately 760 m (2,490 ft) above sea level.

The tell includes two phases of use believed to be of a social or ritual nature dating back to the 10th–8th millennium BCE. During the first phase, belonging to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA), circles of massive T-shaped stone pillars were erected – the world's oldest known megaliths. More than 200 pillars in about 20 circles are currently known through geophysical surveys. Each pillar has a height of up to 6 m (20 ft) and weighs up to 10 tons. They are fitted into sockets that were hewn out of the bedrock. In the second phase, belonging to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB), the erected pillars are smaller and stood in rectangular rooms with floors of polished lime. The site was abandoned after the PPNB. Younger structures date to classical times.

The details of the structure's function remain a mystery. It was excavated by a German archaeological team under the direction of Klaus Schmidt from 1996 until his death in 2014. Schmidt believed that the site was a sanctuary where people from a wide region periodically congregated, not a settlement. In 2018, the site was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

List of Neolithic cultures of China

This is a list of Neolithic cultures of China that have been unearthed by archaeologists. They are sorted in chronological order from earliest to latest and are followed by a schematic visualization of these cultures.

It would seem that the definition of Neolithic in China is undergoing changes. The discovery in 2012 of pottery about 20,000 years BP indicates that this measure alone can no longer be used to define the period. It will fall to the more difficult task of determining when cereal domestication started.

Mesolithic

In Old World archaeology, Mesolithic (Greek: μέσος, mesos "middle"; λίθος, lithos "stone") is the period between

the Upper Paleolithic and the Neolithic. The term Epipaleolithic is often used synonymously, especially for outside northern Europe, and for the corresponding period in the Levant and Caucasus.

The Mesolithic has different time spans in different parts of Eurasia.

It refers to the final period of hunter-gatherer cultures in Europe and Western Asia, between the end of the Last Glacial Maximum and the Neolithic Revolution. In Europe it spans roughly 15,000 to 5,000 BP; in Southwest Asia (the Epipalaeolithic Near East) roughly 20,000 to 8,000 BP.

The term is less used of areas further east, and not at all beyond Eurasia and North Africa.

The type of culture associated with the Mesolithic varies between areas, but it is associated with a decline in the group hunting of large animals in favour of a broader hunter-gatherer way of life, and the development of more sophisticated and typically smaller lithic tools and weapons than the heavy chipped equivalents typical of the Paleolithic. Depending on the region, some use of pottery and textiles may be found in sites allocated to the Mesolithic, but generally indications of agriculture are taken as marking transition into the Neolithic. The more permanent settlements tend to be close to the sea or inland waters offering a good supply of food. Mesolithic societies are not seen as very complex, and burials are fairly simple; grandiose burial mounds are another mark of the Neolithic.

Neolithic Europe

Neolithic Europe is the period when Neolithic technology was present in Europe, roughly between 7000 BCE (the approximate time of the first farming societies in Greece) and c. 1700 BCE (the beginning of the Bronze Age in Scandinavia). The Neolithic overlaps the Mesolithic and Bronze Age periods in Europe as cultural changes moved from the southeast to northwest at about 1 km/year - this is called Neolithic Expansion.The duration of the Neolithic varies from place to place, its end marked by the introduction of bronze implements: in southeast Europe it is approximately 4,000 years (i.e. 7000 BCE–3000 BCE) while in parts of Northwest Europe it is just under 3,000 years (c. 4500 BCE–1700 BCE), although copper metallurgy was already in use on a small scale from c.2800 BC .

Neolithic Revolution

The Neolithic Revolution, Neolithic Demographic Transition, Agricultural Revolution, or First Agricultural Revolution was the wide-scale transition of many human cultures during the Neolithic period from a lifestyle of hunting and gathering to one of agriculture and settlement, making an increasingly larger population possible. These settled communities permitted humans to observe and experiment with plants to learn how they grew and developed. This new knowledge led to the domestication of plants.Archaeological data indicates that the domestication of various types of plants and animals happened in separate locations worldwide, starting in the geological epoch of the Holocene around 12,500 years ago. It was the world's first historically verifiable revolution in agriculture. The Neolithic Revolution greatly narrowed the diversity of foods available, resulting in a downturn in the quality of human nutrition.The Neolithic Revolution involved far more than the adoption of a limited set of food-producing techniques. During the next millennia it would transform the small and mobile groups of hunter-gatherers that had hitherto dominated human pre-history into sedentary (non-nomadic) societies based in built-up villages and towns. These societies radically modified their natural environment by means of specialized food-crop cultivation, with activities such as irrigation and deforestation which allowed the production of surplus food. Other developments found very widely are the domestication of animals, pottery, polished stone tools, and rectangular houses.

These developments, sometimes called the Neolithic package, provided the basis for centralized administrations and political structures, hierarchical ideologies, depersonalized systems of knowledge (e.g. writing), densely populated settlements, specialization and division of labour, more trade, the development of non-portable art and architecture, and property ownership. The earliest known civilization developed in Sumer in southern Mesopotamia (c.  6,500 BP); its emergence also heralded the beginning of the Bronze Age.The relationship of the above-mentioned Neolithic characteristics to the onset of agriculture, their sequence of emergence, and empirical relation to each other at various Neolithic sites remains the subject of academic debate, and varies from place to place, rather than being the outcome of universal laws of social evolution. The Levant saw the earliest developments of the Neolithic Revolution from around 10,000 BCE, followed by sites in the wider Fertile Crescent.

Neolithic architecture

Neolithic architecture refers to structures encompassing housing and shelter from approximately 10,000 to 2,000 BC, the Neolithic period. In southwest Asia, Neolithic cultures appear soon after 10,000 BC, initially in the Levant (Pre-Pottery Neolithic A and Pre-Pottery Neolithic B) and from there into the east and west. Early Neolithic structures and buildings can be found in southeast Anatolia, Syria, and Iraq by 8,000 BC with agriculture societies first appearing in southeast Europe by 7,000 BC, and central Europe by ca. 5,500 BC (of which the earliest cultural complexes include the Starčevo-Koros (Cris), Linearbandkeramic, and Vinča.

Neolithic founder crops

The Neolithic founder crops (or primary domesticates) are the eight plant species that were domesticated by early Holocene (Pre-Pottery Neolithic A and Pre-Pottery Neolithic B) farming communities in the Fertile Crescent region of southwest Asia, and which formed the basis of systematic agriculture in the Middle East, North Africa, India, Persia and Europe. They consist of flax, three cereals and four pulses, and are the first known domesticated plants in the world. Although domesticated rye (Secale cereale) occurs in the final Epi-Palaeolithic strata at Tell Abu Hureyra (the earliest instance of domesticated plant species), it was insignificant in the Neolithic Period of southwest Asia and only became common with the spread of farming into northern Europe several millennia later.Cereals

Emmer wheat (Triticum dicoccum, descended from the wild T. dicoccoides)

Einkorn wheat (Triticum monococcum, descended from the wild T. boeoticum)

Barley (Hordeum vulgare/sativum, descended from the wild H. spontaneum)Pulses

Lentil (Lens culinaris)

Pea (Pisum sativum)

Chickpea (Cicer arietinum)

Bitter vetch (Vicia ervilia)Other

Flax (Linum usitatissimum)

Neolithic long house

The Neolithic long house was a long, narrow timber dwelling built by the first farmers in Europe beginning at least as early as the period 5000 to 6000 BC. They first appeared in central Europe in connection with the early Neolithic cultures such as the Linear Pottery culture or Cucuteni culture. This type of architecture represents the largest free-standing structure in the world in its era. Long houses are present across numerous regions and time periods in the archaeological record.

The long house was a rectangular structure, 5.5 to 7.0 m wide, of variable length, around 20 m up to 45 m. Outer walls were wattle-and-daub, sometimes alternating with split logs, with pitched, thatched roofs, supported by rows of poles, three across. The exterior walls would have been quite short beneath the large roof. They were solid and massive, oak posts being preferred. Clay for the daub was dug from pits near the house, which were then used for storage. Extra posts at one end may indicate a partial second story. Some Linear Pottery culture houses were occupied for as long as 30 years.It is thought that these houses had no windows and only one doorway. The door was located at one end of the house. Internally, the house had one or two partitions creating up to three areas. Interpretations of the use of these areas vary. Working activities might be carried out in the better lit door end, the middle used for sleeping and eating and the end farthest from the door could have been used for grain storage. According to other view, the interior was divided in areas for sleeping, common life and a fenced enclosure at the back end for keeping animals.Twenty or thirty people could have lived in each house, with villages composed typically of five to eight houses. Exceptionally, nearly 30 longhouses in a fortified settlement (dating to 4300 BC, i.e., Late Linear Pottery culture) were revealed by excavations at Oslonki in Poland.

Ness of Brodgar

The Ness of Brodgar is an archaeological site covering 2.5 hectares (6.2 acres) between the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness in the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site in Orkney, Scotland. Excavations at the site began in 2003. The site has provided evidence of decorated stone slabs, a stone wall 6 metres (20 ft) thick with foundations, and a large building described as a Neolithic temple. The earliest structures were built between 3,300 and 3,200 BC, and the site had been closed down and partly dismantled by 2,200 BC.

Prehistoric religion

Prehistoric religions are the religious beliefs and practices of prehistoric peoples. The term may cover Paleolithic religion, Mesolithic religion, Neolithic religion and Bronze Age religions.

Prehistory

Human prehistory is the period between the use of the first stone tools c. 3.3 million years ago by hominins and the invention of writing systems. The earliest writing systems appeared c. 5,300 years ago, but it took thousands of years for writing to be widely adopted and it was not used in some human cultures until the 19th century or even until the present. The end of prehistory therefore came at very different dates in different places, and the term is less often used in discussing societies where prehistory ended relatively recently.

Sumer in Mesopotamia, the Indus valley civilization and ancient Egypt were the first civilizations to develop their own scripts, and to keep historical records; this took place already during the early Bronze Age. Neighboring civilizations were the first to follow. Most other civilizations reached the end of prehistory during the Iron Age. The three-age system of division of prehistory into the Stone Age, followed by the Bronze Age and Iron Age, remains in use for much of Eurasia and North Africa, but is not generally used in those parts of the world where the working of hard metals arrived abruptly with contact with Eurasian cultures, such as the Americas, Oceania, Australasia and much of Sub-Saharan Africa. These areas also, with some exceptions in Pre-Columbian civilizations in the Americas, did not develop complex writing systems before the arrival of Eurasians, and their prehistory reaches into relatively recent periods; for example 1788 is usually taken as the end of the prehistory of Australia.

The period when a culture is written about by others, but has not developed its own writing is often known as the protohistory of the culture. By definition, there are no written records from human prehistory, so dating of prehistoric materials is crucial. Clear techniques for dating were not well-developed until the 19th century.This article is concerned with human prehistory, the time since behaviorally and anatomically modern humans first appeared until the beginning of recorded history. Earlier periods are also called "prehistoric"; there are separate articles for the overall history of the Earth and the history of life before humans.

Prehistory of Southeastern Europe

The prehistory of Southeastern Europe, defined roughly as the territory of the wider Balkan peninsula (including the territories of the modern countries of Albania, Croatia, Kosovo, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, Bosnia, Romania, Bulgaria, and European Turkey) covers the period from the Upper Paleolithic, beginning with the presence of Homo sapiens in the area some 44,000 years ago, until the appearance of the first written records in Classical Antiquity, in Greece as early as the 8th century BC.

Human prehistory in Southeastern Europe is conventionally divided into smaller periods, such as Upper Paleolithic, Holocene Mesolithic/Epipaleolithic, Neolithic Revolution, expansion of Proto-Indo-Europeans, and Protohistory. The changes between these are gradual. For example, depending on interpretation, protohistory might or might not include Bronze Age Greece (2800–1200 BC), Minoan, Mycenaean, Thracian and Venetic cultures. By one interpretation of the historiography criterion, Southeastern Europe enters protohistory only with Homer (See also Historicity of the Iliad, and Geography of the Odyssey). At any rate, the period ends before Herodotus in the 5th century BC.

Proto-Indo-Europeans

The Proto-Indo-Europeans were the prehistoric people of Eurasia who spoke Proto-Indo-European (PIE), the ancestor of the Indo-European languages according to linguistic reconstruction.

Knowledge of them comes chiefly from that reconstruction, along with material evidence from archaeology and archaeogenetics. The Proto-Indo-Europeans likely lived during the late Neolithic, or roughly the 4th millennium BC. Mainstream scholarship places them in the Pontic–Caspian steppe zone in Eastern Europe (present day Ukraine and Russia). Some archaeologists would extend the time depth of PIE to the middle Neolithic (5500 to 4500 BC) or even the early Neolithic (7500 to 5500 BC), and suggest alternative location hypotheses.

By the early second millennium BC, offshoots of the Proto-Indo-Europeans had reached far and wide across Eurasia, including Anatolia (Hittites), the Aegean (the ancestors of Mycenaean Greece), the north of Europe (Corded Ware culture), the edges of Central Asia (Yamnaya culture), and southern Siberia (Afanasievo culture).

Ring of Brodgar

The Ring of Brodgar (or Brogar, or Ring o' Brodgar) is a Neolithic henge and stone circle about 6 miles north-east of Stromness on the Mainland, the largest island in Orkney, Scotland. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Heart of Neolithic Orkney.

Skara Brae

Skara Brae is a stone-built Neolithic settlement, located on the Bay of Skaill on the west coast of Mainland, the largest island in the Orkney archipelago of Scotland. Consisting of eight clustered houses, it was occupied from roughly 3180 BC to about 2500 BC. Europe's most complete Neolithic village, Skara Brae gained UNESCO World Heritage Site status as one of four sites making up "The Heart of Neolithic Orkney".a Older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids, it has been called the "Scottish Pompeii" because of its excellent preservation.

South Asian Stone Age

The South Asian Stone Age covers the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic periods in South Asia. Evidence for the most ancient anatomically modern Homo sapiens in South Asia has been found in the cave sites of Cudappah of India, Batadombalena and Belilena in Sri Lanka. In Mehrgarh, in what is today western Pakistan, the Neolithic began c. 7000 BCE and lasted until 3300 BCE and the first beginnings of the Bronze Age. In South India, the Mesolithic lasted until 3000 BCE, and the Neolithic until 1400 BCE, followed by a Megalithic transitional period mostly skipping the Bronze Age. The Iron Age began roughly simultaneously in North and South India, around c. 1200 to 1000 BCE (Painted Grey Ware culture, Hallur).

Venus figurines

A Venus figurine is any Upper Paleolithic statuette portraying a woman, with fewer sculptures depicting men or figures of uncertain sex, and those in relief or engraved on rock or stones are often discussed together. Most have been unearthed in Europe, but others have been found as far away as Siberia, extending their distribution across much of Eurasia, although with many gaps, such as the Mediterranean outside Italy.Most of them date from the Gravettian period (26,000–21,000 years ago), but examples exist as early as the Venus of Hohle Fels, which dates back at least 35,000 years to the Aurignacian, and as late as the Venus of Monruz, from about 11,000 years ago in the Magdalenian. These figurines were carved from soft stone (such as steatite, calcite or limestone), bone or ivory, or formed of clay and fired. The latter are among the oldest ceramics known. In total, some 144 such figurines are known; virtually all of modest size, between 3 cm and 40 cm or more in height. They are some of the earliest works of prehistoric art.

Most of them have small heads, wide hips, and legs that taper to a point. Various figurines exaggerate the abdomen, hips, breasts, thighs, or vulva, although many do not, and the concentration in popular accounts on those that do reflects modern preoccupations rather than the range of actual artefacts. In contrast, arms and feet are often absent, and the head is usually small and faceless. Depictions of hairstyles can be detailed, and especially in Siberian examples, clothing or tattoos may be indicated.The original cultural meaning and purpose of these artifacts is not known. It has frequently been suggested that they may have served a ritual or symbolic function. There are widely varying and speculative interpretations of their use or meaning: they have been seen as religious figures, as erotic art or sex aids, grandmother goddesses or as self-depictions by female artists.

Çatalhöyük

Çatalhöyük (Turkish pronunciation: [tʃaˈtaɫhœjyc]; also Çatal Höyük and Çatal Hüyük; from Turkish çatal "fork" + höyük "tumulus") was a very large Neolithic and Chalcolithic proto-city settlement in southern Anatolia, which existed from approximately 7500 BC to 5700 BC, and flourished around 7000 BC. In July 2012, it was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.Çatalhöyük is located overlooking the Konya Plain, southeast of the present-day city of Konya (ancient Iconium) in Turkey, approximately 140 km (87 mi) from the twin-coned volcano of Mount Hasan. The eastern settlement forms a mound which would have risen about 20 m (66 ft) above the plain at the time of the latest Neolithic occupation. There is also a smaller settlement mound to the west and a Byzantine settlement a few hundred meters to the east. The prehistoric mound settlements were abandoned before the Bronze Age. A channel of the Çarşamba River once flowed between the two mounds, and the settlement was built on alluvial clay which may have been favorable for early agriculture.

Paleolithic
Neolithic
Chalcolithic
Bronze Age

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