Cultures > Neolithic Revolution

Neolithic Revolution


The Neolithic Revolution or Neolithic Demographic Transition, sometimes called the Agricultural Revolution, was the wide-scale transition of many human cultures from a lifestyle of hunting and gathering to one of agriculture and settlement, allowing the ability to support an increasingly large population.[1] Archaeological data indicates that the domestication of various types of plants and animals evolved in separate locations worldwide, starting in the geological epoch of the Holocene[2] around 12,000 years ago.[3] It was the world's first historically verifiable revolution in agriculture. However, 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 (here meaning non-nomadic) societies based in built-up villages and towns. These societies radically modified their natural environment by means of specialized food-crop cultivation (e.g., irrigation and deforestation) which allowed extensive surplus food production. These developments provided the basis for densely populated settlements, specialization and division of labour, trading economies, the development of non-portable art and architecture, centralized administrations and political structures, hierarchical ideologies, depersonalized systems of knowledge (e.g., writing), and property ownership. Personal, land and private property ownership led to hierarchical society, class struggle and armies. The first full-blown manifestation of the entire Neolithic complex is seen in the Middle Eastern Sumerian cities (c. 5,500 BP), whose 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.[4][5]


During the Paleolithic Period, which lasts from the beginnings of human life until about 10,000 BCE, people were nomads. They lived in groups of 20 -30, and spent most of their time hunting and gathering. In these groups, work was divided between men and women, with the men hunting game animals, and women gathering fruits, berries, and other edibles. These early peoples developed simple tools such as, spears and axes made from bone, wood, and stone. Human beings lived in this manner from earliest times until about 10,000 BCE, when they started to cultivate crops and domesticate animals. This is known as the Neolithic Revolution. The Neolithic Revolution was a fundamental change in the way people lived. The shift from hunting & gathering to agriculture led to permanent settlements, the establishment of social classes, and the eventual rise of civilizations. The Neolithic Revolution is a major turning point in human history. Great Discoveries About 10,000 BCE, humans began to cultivate crops and domesticate certain animals. This was a change from the system of hunting and gathering that had sustained humans from earliest times. As a result, permanent settlements were established. Neolithic villages continued to divide work between men and women. However, women's status declined as men took the lead in in most areas of these early societies. Villages were usually run by a Council of Elders composed of the heads of the village's various families. Some of these villages may have had a chief elder as a single leader. When resources became scarce, warfare among villages increased. During war, some men gained stature as great warriors. This usually transferred over to village life with these warriors becoming the leaders in society. Early social class divisions developed as a result. A person's social class was usually determined by the work they did, such as farmer, craftsman, priest, and warrior. Depending on the society, priests and warriors were usually at the top, with farmers and craftsman at the bottom. New technologies developed in response to the need for better tools and weapons to go along with the new way of living. Neolithic farmers created a simple calendar to keep track of planting and harvesting. They also developed simple metal tools such as plows, to help with their work. Some groups even may have used animals to pull these plows, again making work easier. Metal weapons were developed as villages needed to protect their valuable resources. Effects The Neolithic Revolution changed the way humans lived. The use of agriculture allowed humans to develop permanent settlements, social classes, and new technologies. Some of these early groups settled in the fertile valleys of the Nile, Tigris-Euphrates, Yellow, and Indus Rivers. This resulted in the rise of the great civilizations in Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, and India.


Primary Sources

Secondary Sources