The Neolithic Revolution

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1 The Neolithic Revolution The archaeologist took out his small brush and carefully removed the remaining dirt from the fragment of human skull. To help him reconstruct the life of the ancient human, he looked at the other artifacts that he found in the old grave. There were broken pieces of roughly-formed pottery, a stone axe probably used for tilling the soil, sheep bones, and tiny clay beads. Based on the evidence available to him, the archaeologist concluded that this human must have lived during the Neolithic Age. Scholars still debate over the origins of human society, but most agree that sometime before 10,000 B.C., the actual developments occurred. Today, Neolithic is a term used to describe the new stone age. However, the Neolithic Revolution, refers to the change in the way humans lived: from nomadic hunters and gatherers to settled farmers living in villages. An important part of the explanation for this change has to do with climate. Around this time, the earth became warmer and allowed new kinds of plants and animals to grow and flourish in various regions around the world. While some humans (hunter-gatherers) followed the great herds of animals that migrated north into the once frozen lands of Europe and Asia, others (farmers) learned that they could be assured enough food by planting wild wheat and barley. In fact, the natural vegetation in some regions was so plentiful that people began to store the surplus grain in underground storage pits for use during the winter months. Since wild wheat and barley was so easy to harvest and store, there was no reason for people to move from place to place in search of food. Soon, people began to live in small villages, changing from a nomadic lifestyle to a more stabilized and permanent one. It is hard to know how early Neolithic farmers divided the labor within their villages, but archaeologists believe that the domestication of animals and the specialization of skills helped cause this to occur. While some humans learned to domesticate dogs, sheep, oxen, and horses in order to supplement and improve their diets, others created new inventions like wheeled carts, hand tools, weapons, pottery, and irrigation. Throughout the early centers of civilization, archaeologists have uncovered evidence that farm fields were irrigated using handmade channels (irrigation) that diverted river water to thirsty crops. In most Neolithic villages, evidence has been discovered proving that the creation of the potter s wheel enabled the potter to make jugs, dishes, and other containers much more easily than in the past. Other evidence suggests that these ancient people learned metallurgy by mixing metals and hammering lead and copper into tools, weapons, and jewelry. Still other people became cloth weavers who made clothing, rugs, and other practical items. Because of these changes, new social and economic classes emerged.

2 Trade between skilled craftsmen and farmers created the need for markets and other places for human interaction. According to most archaeologists, the first Neolithic humans lived in caves or huts made of mud, reeds, and logs. These early dwellings were grouped in small, open villages. The purpose of the village was to form a community of workers who could share the work of planting, sowing, and harvesting crops or caring for livestock. Unfortunately, the Neolithic age was also a dangerous time to live in. Predatory animals and humans would often attack herds or villages and steal precious food supplies during times of drought or extreme cold. Therefore, farmers formed larger communities where they could help to protect each other and their families. Remains of Neolithic villages and towns have been discovered all over Europe, Africa, and Asia. It is important to remember, however, that development and change occurred at a very slow pace during the Neolithic period. According to all the available evidence uncovered by archaeologists, at least 5,000 years separated the beginning of the Neolithic Revolution from the development of the first true civilizations. Yet, each step in the process is an important one: from the discovery of stone tools to the development of writing. However, Archaeologists and historians today generally agree that there are three important terms used to determine if an ancient cultural group progressed enough to be called a civilization. These three words are cooperation, organization, and specialization. The Dawn of Civilization What is civilization? It is not easy to Define. Archaeologists and historians today generally agree that there are three important terms used to determine if an ancient cultural group progressed enough to be called a civilization. These three words are cooperation, organization, and specialization. Yet, these three words alone can not totally describe what makes up a civilization. Seen through archaeology and history, civilization is a major event that occurred in a few places of the world within a period of a mere few thousand years. Looked at within the span of time from approximately 6000 to 1500 B.C., the advent of civilization appears gradually and progressive due to two major revolutions: the achievement of agriculture and the rise of cities. Yet, most scholars prefer to break down these developments even more. Systematic agriculture was an early development born out of the Neolithic age. Organized farming and herding allowed skilled workers to produce the food for a large community while other people worked in specialties like weaving, pottery, metallurgy, and masonry. As these farmers and specialized workers provided a foundation for the

3 development of different social classes, their communities began to grow into cities. In the ancient world, the development of cities was important in defining people as civilized. However, just putting lots of people in a crowded living area doesn t always make them part of a civilization. Today, most Historians believe that the earliest known civilizations had five key features that developed out of their needs for cooperation, specialization, and organization. These five features include: 1) Advanced Cities, which could hold many people and served as centers of trade. 2) Specialized Workers, who could focus on different kinds of work to fulfill the needs of the people. 3) Complex Institutions, which gave the people shared religious beliefs, rules (laws), economic systems, and political alliances (government). 4) Record-Keeping, which allow them to record trade, laws, and religious beliefs. 5) Advanced Technology, which produced new tools (metallurgy), farming techniques (irrigation), and transportation (sailing). Yet, why civilizations arose in the places they did around the world is a question that can not often be answered using only the characteristics mentioned above. It is more probable, according to both archaeologists and historians, that civilizations arose where they did because of a combination of natural and man-made circumstances intermixed with many of the basic characteristics, which we have already mentioned. If one looks at the beginnings of civilization historically, the known centers of early civilization lay in four major regions of the world: Mesopotamia and the Fertile Crescent in Iraq, the Nile River Valley in Egypt, The Indus River Valley in Pakistan, and the Huang He River Basin in China. According to anthropologist Alfred L. Kroeber, they all shared the growing and harvesting of wheat and barley; the domestication of pigs, cattle, and horses; the development of the wheel and the plow for transportation and farming; the molding of pottery, bronze, and iron; the creation of walled cities and fortresses; organized work forces and a hierarchy of different social classes; and of course the development of writing, laws, and taxes. With the development of civilization within these regions, the Neolithic Age gave way to the advancement of a new age that would become known as the Bronze Age. At the end of the stone age, humans were already making tools and weapon out of copper. However, in Mesopotamia and Egypt, they began to discover that if they melted copper and tin together, they could produce a new stronger metal, which became known as bronze. As a result, the people of these civilizations were able to construct great monumental fortresses using more efficient tools and defend them with even stronger and sharper bronze weapons.

4 Numerous examples of the development of the world s earliest civilizations still exist today in the various regions previously mentioned. Even today, Archaeologist still explore the ruins of the ancient cities of Babylon (in Iraq), Thebes (in Egypt), Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro (in Pakistan), Zhengzhou (in China), Catal Huyuk (in Turkey), and Manchu-Pichu (in South America) to learn more about early humans and how they developed into well developed societies and powerful civilization. Sumer, Babylon, & Ur Harappa & Mohenjo-Daro Memphis & Thebes Zhengzhou & Anyang

5 STUDENT S NAME: PERIOD: THE DAWN OF CIVILIZATION Essential Question: What are the key characteristics of civilizations? Determining Key Characteristics INFORMATION SHEET The following information was collected from various academic sources (as indicated). Using this information, along with your textbook, and group discussion, decide what on ten key characteristics for determining when an ancient society should be considered a developed civilization. MERRIAM WEBSTERS COLLEGIATE DICTIONARY Civilization Defined An advanced state of intellectual, cultural, and material development in human society, marked by progress in the arts and sciences, advanced technology, extensive record-keeping, and the appearance of complex political and social institutions. DICTIONARY OF ANTHROPOLOGY Civilization Defined 1. Political Organization 6. Literacy 2. Urbanization 7. Religious / Ceremonial Life 3. Division of Labor 8. Organized Social Structure 4. Specialized Functions 9. Technological Advancements 5. Cultural Traditions IOWA Dept of Education MASSACHUSETTS Dept of Education 1. Cities 1. Food Supply 2. Government 2. Urban Population 3. Religion 3. Record Keeping 4. Division of Labor 4. Social Stratification 5. Social Classes 5. Labor Specialization 6. Art & Architecture 6. Monumental Works 7. Public Works 8. Writing SOUTH CAROLINA Dept of Education 1. Subsistence NEBRASKA Dept of Education 2. Government 1. Cities 3. Special Jobs 2. Trade 4. Social Levels 3. Specialized Occupations 5. Record Keeping 4. Complex Religions 6. Advanced Technology 5. Written Records 7. Developed Cities

6 STUDENT S NAME: PERIOD: THE DAWN OF CIVILIZATION Essential Question: What are the key characteristics of civilizations? Determining Key Characteristics INFORMATION SHEET (CONTINUED) WIKIPEDIA Online Encyclopedia Characteristics of Civilizations 1. Subsistence 6. Economic Systems 2. Livelihood 7. Literacy 3. Settlement Patterns 8. Religion 4. Government 9. Art & Science 5. Social Stratification 10. Technology WORLD BOOK ENCYCLOPEDIA Characteristics of Civilizations 1. Development of Agriculture 6. Development of Writing 2. Living in Cities 7. Technology 3. Formal Government 8. Art & Science 4. Economic Systems 9. Specific Customs 5. Social Systems ENCYCLOPEDIA AMERICANA Characteristics of Civilizations 1. Agricultural Subsistence 6. Market & Trade Systems 2. Settlement Patterns 7. Writing 3. Social Stratification 8. Religion 4. Forms of Government 9. Art & Science 5. Specialized Workers 10. Technology STANFORD UNIVERSITY (History and Anthropology Departments) 1. Urban Society 6. Social Classes 2. Religious Beliefs 7. Technology 3. Literacy 8. Concept of Time 4. Government 9. Leisure 5. Specialization 10. Education ANTHROPOLOGY TODAY Magazine Characteristics of Ancient Civilizations 1. Social Stratification 7. Spiritual Beliefs 2. Settlement Patterns 8. Monumental Architecture 3. Exchange Networks 9. Literacy 4. Advanced Technology 10. Centralized Government 5. Craft Specialization 11. Military 6. Subsistence 12. Leisure Activities

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