Neolithic period

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Related to Neolithic period: Paleolithic period, Mesolithic period

Neolithic period

Neolithic period or New Stone Age. The term neolithic is used, especially in archaeology and anthropology, to designate a stage of cultural evolution or technological development characterized by the use of stone tools, the existence of settled villages largely dependent on domesticated plants and animals, and the presence of such crafts as pottery and weaving. The time period and cultural content indicated by the term varies with the geographic location of the culture considered and with the particular criteria used by the individual scientist. The domestication of plants and animals usually distinguishes Neolithic culture from earlier Paleolithic or Mesolithic hunting, fishing, and food-gathering cultures. The Mesolithic period in several areas shows a gradual transition from a food-collecting to a food-producing culture. The termination of the Neolithic period is marked by such innovations as the rise of urban civilization or the introduction of metal tools or writing. Again, the criteria vary with each case. The earliest known development of Neolithic culture was in SW Asia between 8000 B.C. and 6000 B.C. There the domestication of plants and animals was probably begun by the Mesolithic Natufian peoples, leading to the establishment of settled villages based on the cultivation of cereals, including wheat, barley, and millet, and the raising of cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs. In the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys, the Neolithic culture of the Middle East developed into the urban civilizations of the Bronze Age by 3500 B.C. Between 6000 B.C. and 2000 B.C. Neolithic culture spread through Europe, the Nile valley (Egypt), the Indus valley (India), and the Huang He valley (N China). The formation of Neolithic cultures throughout the Old World resulted from a combination of local cultural developments with innovations diffused from the Middle East. In SE Asia, a distinct type of Neolithic culture involving rice cultivation developed, perhaps independently, before 2000 B.C. In the New World, the domestication of plants and animals occurred independently of Old World developments. By 1500 B.C., Neolithic cultures based on the cultivation of corn, beans, squash, and other plants were present in Mexico and South America, leading to the rise of the Inca and Aztec civilizations and spreading to other parts of the Americas by the time of European contact. The term Neolithic has also been used in anthropology to designate cultures of more contemporary primitive, independent farming communities.


See V. G. Childe, New Light on the Most Ancient East (4th ed. 1953, repr. 1968); G. Clark and S. Piggott, Prehistoric Societies (1965); R. J. Braidwood, Prehistoric Men (7th ed. 1967); S. M. Cole, The Neolithic Revolution (4th ed. 1967); A. Whittle, Problems in Neolithic Archaeology (1989).

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Copper was mined and processed in Al Ain and then transported to the coast as ingots on the trade routes that had been established during the earlier Neolithic period. With their knowledge of the sea, these Bronze Age entrepreneurs established a trading port on Umm An Nar Island, right next to the modern city of Abu Dhabi.
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The Neolithic Studies Group held a conference at the British Museum, London in November 2005 in conjunction with the Lithic Studies Society to share findings and insights regarding the study of stone from the Neolithic period. The 16 papers here discuss such matters as the felsite quarry complex of Northmaven in Scotland, new discoveries at the Mynydd Rhiw axehead production site, seamer axeheads in southern England, obsidian in the Near East during the Halaf period as a case study on why people use exotic raw material, interpreting evidence for prehistoric conflict, and ideology and context within the European flint-mining tradition.
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