Research Paper “The Neolithic Revolution” Prepared by: group student Supervisor: -2011- Contents: 1. Introduction………………………………………………………………………….. 3 2. Literature review…………………………………………………………………….. 4 3. Neolithic revolution………………………………………………………………….. 6 4. Conclusion……………………………………………………………………………. 9 5. Bibliography…………………………………………………………………………10 Introduction The most important technological development ever to occur in human history was the domestication of plants (agriculture) and animals (pastoralism).
Together these developments are called the Neolithic Revolution. To understand how the Neolithic Revolution occurred it is necessary to understand the economic system it replaced. Until the Neolithic, and in most areas for a long time after, all humans engaged in an economic activity called “hunting and gathering”. This system is called “food extraction” as opposed to “food production” by agriculture and pastoralism.
This period, which occurred between 12,000 and 8,000 years ago, brought along many profound changes to human society and culture, including the creation of cities and permanent dwellings, labor specialization, the baking of bread, personal property, more complex hierarchical social structures, non-agricultural crafts, slavery, the state, official marriage, personal inheritance, and more. I’ve chosen this topic because we can’t imagine our life, if there were not such a revolution. What would we be without the Neolithic Revolution? I think without the Neolithic Revolution I probably wouldn’t be writing this paper right now.
We wouldn’t be staying in one place for long, because we would be moving around hunting and gathering for our food. We wouldn’t have time for learning, or going to work, or a lot of the things we do. The Neolithic Revolution was the most transformative event in history, it was the beginning of agriculture. With not having to hunt and chase for our food we could stay in one spot, which developed into urban centers. This gave us the ability to trade because not everyone had to spend there time on getting food. We still have people working on the farms, but since not everyone had to do that.
Now, probably, no one can imagine having to wake up and go hunt for your food. Because of the revolution we have farms and we can just simply go to the grocery store. This made everything a lot more convenient. Revolution allowed the development of urban centers, trade and most of the other things we consider to be components of “civilization”. In this work I’m going to describe following questions: * Why and how did people adopt farming and domestication? * When they did it? * How did it spread? * What are the consequences? I will cover three scholarly articles to understand the topic theme. Literature review
Now, at the beginning, I think that it would be better to start with the article that describes the first question that I’m going to answer at, “why and how did people adopt farming and domestication? ” Jared Diamond, an American scientist, in his work proposed the following: “Food production could not possibly have arisen through a conscious decision, because the world’s first farmers had around them no model of farming to observe, hence they could not have known that there was a goal of domestication to strive for, and could not have guessed the consequences that domestication would bring for them.
Although humans had been manipulating wild plants and animals for a long time, hunter-gatherer behaviour began to change only because of increasingly unpredictable climate, decreases in big-game species that were hunters’ first-choice prey, and increasing human occupation of available habitats. To decrease the risk of unpredictable variation in food supply, people broadened their diets to second- and third-choice foods, which included more small game, plus plant foods requiring much preparation, such as grinding, leaching and soaking. ” First of all, the revolution as inevitable, because of the changing of a climate. To addition prehistoric people couldn’t cognize if their actions were right. They didn’t mind about the consequences, they just did everything to stay alive. At the beginning they rejected hunting on huge animals, but still hunted on smaller once. Later they avowed farming. The emerging agricultural lifestyle had to compete with the established hunter-gatherer lifestyle. When domestication began to arise, the changes of plants and animals that followed automatically under domestication, made the transition from the hunter-gatherer lifestyle to food production.
The Neolithic Revolution brought changes in the lifestyle of all the people. It was the first step to our modern society. The changes that revolution brought were undeniably far-reaching. One and the most important is the “economic consequence”. Ronald Wright, Canadian author who was selected to give the Massey Lectures with his contribution “A Short History of Progress” wrote: “There is no other invention rivals farming (except, since 1940, the invention of weapons that can kill us all). … The Farming Revolution produced an entirely new mode of subsistence, which remains the basis of the world economy to this day.
The food technology of the late Stone Age is the one technology we can’t live without. The crops of about a dozen ancient peoples feed the 6 billion on earth today. Despite more than two centuries of scientific crop-breeding, the so-called green revolution of the 1960s, and the genetic engineering of the 1990s, not one new staple has been added to our repertoire of crops since prehistoric times. ” It’s just fantastic that the revolution, which happened approximately 12,000 – 8,000 years ago was so fundamental, that it is still a basis of modern agriculture.
It also gave the economy to appear. These undeniable facts show the importance of the Neolithic Revolution. Jared Diamond in his work “The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race” showed another position. He explained why the Neolithic revolution was people’s fault: “Recent discoveries suggest that the adoption of agriculture, supposedly our most decisive step toward a better life, was in many ways a catastrophe from which we have never recovered. There are at least three sets of reasons to explain the findings that agriculture was bad for health.
First, hunter-gatherers enjoyed a varied diet, while early farmers obtained most of their food from one or a few starchy crops. The farmers gained cheap calories at the cost of poor nutrition. Second, because of dependence on a limited number of crops, farmers ran the risk of starvation if one crop failed. Finally, the mere fact that agriculture encouraged people to clump together in crowded societies, many of which then carried on trade with other crowded societies, led to the spread of parasites and infectious disease.
Besides malnutrition, starvation, and epidemic diseases, farming helped bring another curse upon humanity: deep class divisions. ” Despite such capability that Neolithic revolution gave us, the main global disadvantages are highlighted in this article. They are: cheap calories that people get, big risk of starvation, spreading of different diseases and class division- inequality. It is also mentioned that it is harder to be a farmer, than a hunter. The Neolithic Revolution The history of civilizations comprises only a tiny fraction of the time that the genus Homo has inhabited the earth.
Civilized societies, those that relied on sedentary agriculture, developed social stratification and economic specialization, and created population densities sufficient to support urban life, have existed for the last 9,000 years. In order to understand civilizations, it is necessary to look at prehistorical precedents for human development in the Paleolithic and Neolithic ages. The rise of sedentary agricultural communities during the Neolithic is one of the first great transformations of human society. Human Life in the Era of Hunters and Gatherers
Homo sapiens, one of a number of human-like species, was able to achieve biological dominance over its rivals and to spread over much of the earth by 10,000 B. C. E. The success of Homo sapiens was in part due to the manual dexterity that permitted the production of tools, enhancing the physical capabilities of early humans, and to the intelligence that allowed the development of spoken language, enabling groups of humans to engage in cooperative behavior. Paleolithic Culture One of the earliest cultural traditions of Homo sapiens was the use of fire or cooking, for curing animal hides, for making weapons, and as a source of heat and light. By the late Paleolithic age , human groups practiced mixed hunting and gathering. The surviving technology of this period consists of stone tools, the earliest of which date back more than two million years. Later Paleolithic human culture also featured artistic elements. The most impressive early works of art were cave paintings that may have had religious significance. It is also possible that these early works of art were primitive calendars or counting systems.
Human Society and Daily Life at the End of the Paleolithic Age While most human societies at the end of the Paleolithic period migrated in pursuit of game, some groups were more sedentary. More stable groups harvested wild grains that grew in profusion near their settlements, and some of these societies progressed to true farming by domesticating plants and animals. Some of these groups subsequently reverted to hunting and gathering, suggesting that humans developed different strategies that produced sufficient quantities of food. Only those groups that adopted agriculture proved capable of producing civilizations.
Hunting and gathering groups were limited to about 30 people and required extensive amounts of territory to support themselves. Migratory groups tended to live in the open rather than in caves and probably developed a sense of territoriality over the lands that produced their food. Labor was organized by gender, with males responsible for hunting and protection of the group, while females gathered food from plants. Settling Down: Dead Ends and Transitions Between 8000 B. C. E. and 5000 B. C. E. , some hunting-gathering groups developed more intensive techniques that permitted them to establish more sedentary settlements.
The establishment of sedentary communities allowed intensive hunting and gathering groups to establish social stratification and commerce with other similar groups. A Precarious Existence Whether grouped in small bands of nomadic hunters and gatherers or more densely clustered in intensive hunting and gathering groups, life for all Homo sapiens remained precarious. With limited technology and a vulnerability to alterations in the migratory patterns of prey or climatic alterations that created changes in the ecosystems on which they depended, all human communities experienced the constant threat of extinction.
Agriculture and the Origins of Civilization: The Neolithic Revolution Beginning around 8000 B. C. E. , many human cultures became increasingly dependent on cultivated crops and domesticated animals to secure their supply of food. By 7000 B. C. E. sedentary agriculture was able to support towns with populations of more than 1,000. By 3500 B. C. E. , the first civilizations appeared. While no one knows for certain what conditions caused the shift from hunting and gathering to sedentary agriculture, changes in the climate may have been significant factors.
It is also probable that increases in human population prompted changes in food production. The Domestication of Plants and Animals The first plants domesticated were the wild grains – barley and wheat – that were common in many regions of the Middle East. The transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture took place slowly. Only as additional crops were added to the agricultural system did societies diminish efforts to hunt and gather. Early agriculturalists may have continued a semi nomadic lifestyle. At approximately the same time as the domestication of wild grains, agricultural societies also began to domesticate animals.
Dogs, sheep, goats, and pigs were among the first animals domesticated around 8500 B. C. E. Cattle, more aggressive and faster than the other animals, were added to the agricultural system around 6500 B. C. E. Domesticated animals improved the supplies of available protein, provided hides and wool for clothing materials, and increased the maturing of agricultural land. The Spread of the Neolithic Revolution The greater effort expended in agricultural systems made the shift to sedentary communities impractical for many groups. Hunting and gathering societies and agricultural communities continued to coexist.
Some groups practiced pastoralism, based on the dependence on domesticated animals. Pastoral societies often thrive in semiarid regions incapable of supporting large populations of farmers. Pastoral societies were often strongly militarized. The cultivation of wheat and barley expanded from the Middle East to India and Europe. The Transformation of Material Life With the shift toward sedentary communities typical of the Neolithic Revolution, the human population rapidly expanded. Villages and cultivated fields became the dominant features of human society.
The development of sedentary settlements accelerated the pace of technological development. Many of these innovations were directly connected to agriculture, including plows, implements, techniques of seed selection, and irrigation. The development of better tools led to better housing and systems for the storage of grain. More dependable food supplies and better housing created conditions conducive to population growth. Social Differentiation The production of food surpluses allowed social differentiation and economic specialization.
Some people were freed from the processes associated with the production of food to make other commodities, such as cloth, pottery, and leather goods. Economic specialization led to social stratification and the creation of elite classes of rulers. Regional economic specialization often centered on commodities indigenous to the region in which the community was located. In order to provide an equitable distribution of goods, trade was established among regions featuring different goods. Social stratification in early agricultural communities was limited. Property may have been held by all members of communities in common.
The position of women in agricultural communities may have declined. Men took over the critical tasks of agriculture and began to monopolize the use of the new tools. Conclusion After the Neolithic Revolution, everything changed dramatically. I’ve chosen the three main factors, which influenced deeply on the progress of the humanity. They became the basis of a “new life”, I think. * Populations, due to a surplus of food, increased. Thousands of people were now living in urban areas. Moreover, they were no longer related to each other. Society, with its increasing complexity, became stratified with kings and slaves and everything in between.
Society also became patriarchal. In summary, the social characteristics of society changed dramatically as a result of the Neolithic Revolution because the surplus allowed folks to get out of farming and become something more specialized. * The economics of society also changed dramatically with the transition to agriculture. Prior to the revolution, there were two main occupations, hunter and gatherer. After the revolution, when the surplus allowed people to get out of the agricultural cycle, people developed new specialized occupations. Kings, scribes, full-time generals, artisans and more developed.
As well, society became richer than ever before. Confident of a surplus, people used the spare time within the agricultural cycle to develop new ways of dealing with society’s problems. This increased wealth along with improved farming, from year to year added value to the economy and some people even became rich. Surplus agriculture also led ultimately to regional and long-distance trade which further enriched society. * Man’s impact on the environment also changed due to the Neolithic Revolution. Hunters and gatherers moved to locations where known food sources existed.
Trails probably developed to some degree among the more highly traveled spots. Otherwise, the environment wasn’t harmed comparatively as much. Gathering resources were cultivated and not depleted. When man settled, his impact on the environment increased considerably. Increased population threatened naturally occurring foodstuffs. Overall, the Neolithic Revolution is revolutionary because it changed so many aspects of society so fundamentally. Group dynamics, the economy, and our impact on the environment changed. So, the Neolithic Revolution changed society in almost every way. Bibliography J. Diamond: “Evolution, Consequences and Future of Plant and Animal Domestication” August 2002 nature. com * J. Diamond: “The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race” May 1987 scribd. com * Ronald Wright “A Short History of Progress” 2004 scribd. com * ablongman. com ——————————————– [ 1 ]. Jared Diamond: “Evolution, Consequences and Future of Plant and Animal Domestication” nature. com [ 2 ]. Ronald Wright: “A Short History of Progress” scribd. com [ 3 ]. Jared Diamond: “The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race” scribd. com