“DOWN ON THE FARM”
THE NEOLITHIC REVOLUTION
10,000 years ago
|Hafted nephrite groundstone adze from the highlands of New Guinea. Such groundstone tools are often associated with the rise of farming communities around the world and used for clearing wooded areas for agriculture.
Credit: Photo by Kathy Schick, courtesy of the Stone Age Institute. All rights reserved.
A major shift in human economies occurred when hunter-gatherers began to control the reproduction of certain plants and animals (called domestication) and, over time, select favorable traits in these species and change their morphology. The rise of farming communities (in the Old World called the New Stone Age or Neolithic) is often correlated with larger, more permanent villages, higher population numbers and densities, a rise is social stratification by the accumulation of wealth and power by some individuals, pottery, and ground stone tools like axes.
It appears that agriculture was developed independently in a number of areas of the world, notably the Near East (barley, wheat, rye, goat/sheep, cattle, pigs), northern China (millet, pigs, cattle), southern China (rice, chickens, pigs), Africa (sorghum, millet), southeast Asia (rice, chickens, water buffalo), the Valley of Mexico (corn, beans, squash, turkeys), the Peruvian highlands and lowlands (potatoes, beans, squash, llamas), and eastern North America (hackberries, etc.).
HOW DO WE KNOW?
The archaeological record shows a gradual transition from pure hunter-gatherer economies to full-fledged farming communities, and from wild forms of plants and animals to domesticated forms. We also see the transition from simple temporary hunter-gatherer camps to permanent villages with numerous houses, indicating sedentism (living in one place) and dramatic population increase.
WHY SHOULD I CARE?
The Neolithic revolution and the rise of farming communities established the foundations for the rise of more complex societies and the rise of cities. Farming provides a more stable and predictable source of foods, but also makes human populations more susceptible to famine during times of drought and disease from higher population densities. Historically, once hunter-gatherers adopted farming and settled down, they almost never go back to a hunting and gathering lifeway. Farming seems like a good thing.
This webpage is about the Neolithic revolution.
This article is from the BBC about the Neolithic Revolution.
This is a YouTube video about the Neolithic Revolution, Part 1.
This is a YouTube video about the Neolithic Revolution, Part 2.