AskDefine | Define neolithic

Dictionary Definition

neolithic adj : of or relating to the most recent period of the Stone Age (following the mesolithic); "evidence of neolithic settlements" n : latest part of the Stone Age beginning about 10,000 BC in the middle east (but later elsewhere) [syn: Neolithic Age, New Stone Age]

User Contributed Dictionary

see Neolithic



en-adj more
  1. hopelessly outdated
    What am I supposed to do with this neolithic piece of machinery?


hopelessly outdated
  • Finnish: kivikautinen

Extensive Definition

The Neolithic (from Greek νεολιθικός - neolithikos, from νέος neos, "new" + λίθος lithos, "stone") or "New" Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology that is traditionally the last part of the Stone Age. The Neolithic era follows the terminal Holocene Epipalaeolithic periods, beginning with the rise of farming, which produced the "Neolithic Revolution" and ending when metal tools became widespread in the Copper Age (chalcolithic) or Bronze Age or developing directly into the Iron Age, depending on geographical region.
Neolithic culture appeared in the Levant (Jericho, modern-day West Bank) about 8500 BC. It developed directly from the Epipaleolithic Natufian culture in the region, whose people pioneered wild cereal use, which then evolved into true farming. The Natufians can thus be called "proto-Neolithic" (11,000–8500 BC). As the Natufians had become dependent on wild cereals in their diet, and a sedentary way of life had begun among them, the climatic changes associated with the Younger Dryas are thought to have forced people to develop farming. By 8500–8000 BC farming communities arose in the Levant and spread to Anatolia, North Africa and North Mesopotamia.
Early Neolithic farming was limited to a narrow range of crops, both wild and domesticated, which included einkorn wheat, millet and spelt and the keeping of dogs, sheep and goats. By about 7000 BC it included domesticated cattle and pigs, the establishment of permanently or seasonally inhabited settlements, and the use of pottery. Not all of these cultural elements characteristic of the Neolithic appeared everywhere in the same order: the earliest farming societies in the Near East did not use pottery, and, in Britain, it remains unclear to what extent plants were domesticated in the earliest Neolithic, or even whether permanently settled communities existed. In other parts of the world, such as Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia, independent domestication events led to their own regionally-distinctive Neolithic cultures which arose completely independent of those in Europe and Southwest Asia. Early Japanese societies used pottery before developing agriculture.
Unlike the Palaeolithic, where more than one human species existed, only one human species (Homo sapiens sapiens) reached the neolithic.

Periods by pottery phase

In Southwest Asia (i.e., the Middle East), cultures identified as Neolithic began appearing soon after the 10th millennium BC. Early development occurred in the Levant (e.g., Pre-Pottery Neolithic A and Pre-Pottery Neolithic B) and from there spread eastwards and westwards. Neolithic cultures are also attested in southeastern Anatolia and northern Mesopotamia by ca. 8000 BC.
The prehistoric Beifudi site near Yixian in Hebei Province, China, contains relics of a culture contemporaneous with the Cishan and Xinglongwa cultures of about 7,000-8,000 BC, neolithic cultures east of the Taihang Mountains, filling in an archaeological gap between the two Northern Chinese cultures. The total excavated area is more than 1,200 square meters and the collection of neolithic findings at the site consists of two phases.

Neolithic 1 — Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA)

The Neolithic 1 (PPNA) began in the Levant (Jericho, Palestine & Jbeil (Byblos), Lebanon) around 8500 to 8000 BC. The actual date is not established with certainty due to different results in carbon dating by scientists in the British Museum and Philadelphia laboratories.
The major advance of Neolithic 1 was true farming. In the proto-Neolithic Natufian cultures, wild cereals were harvested, and perhaps early seed selection and re-seeding occurred. The grain was ground into flour. Emmer wheat was domesticated, and animals were herded and domesticated (animal husbandry and animal breeding).
Settlements became more permanent with circular houses, much like those of the Natufians, with single rooms. However, these houses were for the first time made of mudbricks. The husband had one house, while each of his wives lived with their children in surrounding houses. The settlement had a surrounding stone wall and perhaps a stone tower (like Jericho). The wall served as protection from nearby groups, as protection from floods, or to keep animals penned. There are also some enclosures that suggest grain and meat storage.

Neolithic 2 — Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB)

The Neolithic 2 (PPNB) began around 7500 to 7000 BC in the Levant (Jericho, Palestine). Like the PPNA dates there are two versions from the same laboratories noted above. But this terminological structure is not agreeable for SouthEast Anatolia and Middle Anatolia Basin settlements.
Settlements have rectangular mudbrick houses where the family lived together in single or multiple rooms. Burial findings suggest an ancestor cult where people preserved skulls from the dead which were plastered with mud to make facial features. The rest of the corpse may have been left outside the settlement to decay until only the bones were left, then the bones were buried inside the settlement underneath the floor or between houses.

Neolithic 3 — Pottery Neolithic (PN)

The Neolithic 3 (PN) began around 6000 to 5500 BC in the Fertile Crescent. By then distinctive cultures emerged, with pottery like the Halafian (Turkey, Syria, Northern Mesopotamia) and Ubaid (Southern Mesopotamia).
The Chalcolithic period began about 4500 BC, then the Bronze Age began about 3500 BC, replacing the Neolithic cultures.

Periods by region

In the Fertile Crescent

Around 9,000 BC the first fully developed Neolithic cultures belonging to the phase Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) appeared in the fertile crescent. Around 8,000 BC during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) the world's first town Jericho appeared in the Levant and was surrounded by a stone wall and contained a population of 2000-3000 people and a massive stone tower.. Around (5,500 BC) the Halafian culture appeared in the Levant, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Anatolia, Northern Mesopotamia and subsisted on dryland agriculture.

Southern Mesopotamia

Alluvial plains (Sumer/Elam). Little rainfall, makes irrigation systems necessary. Ubaid culture from 5500 BC.


In southeast Europe agrarian societies first appeared by ca. 7000 BC, and in Central Europe by ca. 5500 BC. Among the earliest cultural complexes of this area are included the Starčevo-Körös (Cris), Linearbandkeramic, and Vinča. Through a combination of cultural diffusion and migration of peoples, the Neolithic traditions spread west and northwards to reach northwestern Europe by around 4500 BC. The Vinča culture may have created the earliest system of writing the Vinča signs though it is almost universally accepted amongst archeologists that the Sumerian cuneiform script was the earliest true form of writing and the Vinča signs most likely represented pictograms and ideograms rather than a truly developed form of writing.

South and East Asia

The oldest Neolithic site in South Asia is Mehrgarh from 7000 BC on the "Kachi plain of Baluchistan, Pakistan It is one of the earliest sites with evidence of farming (wheat and barley) and herding (cattle, sheep and goats) in South Asia."
One of the earliest Neolithic sites in India is Lahuradewa, at Middle Ganges region, C14 dated around 7th millennium BC.. Recently another site near the confluence of Ganges and Yamuna rivers called Jhusi yielded a C14 dating of 7100 BC for its Neolithic levels.
In South India the Neolithic began by 3000 BC and lasted until around 1400 BC when the Megalithic transition period began. South Indian Neolithic is characterized by Ashmounds since 2500 BC in Karnataka region, expanded later to Tamil.
Comparative excavations carried out in Adichanallur in Tuticorin District of Southern India (now part of Tamilnadu state) have provided evidence of a southward migration of the Megalithic culture The earliest clear evidence of the presence of the megalithic urn burials are those dating from around 1000 BC, which have been discovered at various places in Tamil Nadu, notably at Adichanallur, 24 km from Tirunelveli, where archaeologists from the Archaeological Survey of India unearthed 12 urns with Tamil Brahmi script on them containing human skulls, skeletons and bones, plus husks, grains of rice, charred rice and Neolithic celts, giving evidence confirming it of the Neolithic period 2800 years ago. This proved that Tirunelveli area has been the abode for human habituation since the Neolithic period about 3,000 years ago. Adhichanallur has been announced as an archaeological site for further excavation and studies.,
We have to keep in mind that Adhichanallur is a Megalithic period site, not a Neolithic place.
In East Asia the earliest sites include Pengtoushan culture around 7500 BC to 6100 BC, Peiligang culture around 7000 BC to 5000 BC.


In Mesoamerica a similar set of events (i.e., crop domestication and sedentary lifestyles) occurred by around 4500 BC, but possibly as early as 11,000–10,000 BC, although here the term Pre-Classic (or Formative) is used instead of mid-late Neolithic, Archaic Era for the Early Neolithic, and Paleo-Indian for the preceding period though these cultures are usually not referred to as belonging to the Neolithic.

Social organization

During most of the Neolithic people lived in small tribes of 150-2000 members that were composed of multiple Bands or lineages. There is little scientific evidence for developed social stratification in the majority of Neolithic societies; social stratification is more closely associated with the later Bronze Age. Although some late Neolithic societies formed complex stratified chiefdoms similar to Polynesian societies such as the Ancient Hawaiians most Neolithic societies were relatively simple and egalitarian although Neolithic cultures were noticeably more hierarchical than the Paleolithic cultures that preceded them and Hunter-gatherer cultures in general The domestication of animals (c. 7000 BC) resulted in a dramatic increase in social inequality as livestock -which were often regarded as a form of capital amongst more complex pastoral Neolithic societies allowed competition between households to result in inherited inequalities of wealth as Neolithic pastoralists who controlled large herds of goats and cows gradually acquired more livestock which allowed economic inequalities to become more pronounced. * Nevali Cori in Turkey, ca. 8000 BC The world's oldest known engineered roadway, the Sweet Track in England, dates from 3800 BC.



  • Bellwood, Peter. (2004). First Farmers: The Origins of Agricultural Societies. Blackwell Publishers. ISBN 0-631-20566-7

See also

neolithic in Arabic: عصر حجري حديث
neolithic in Asturian: Neolíticu
neolithic in Breton: Neolitik
neolithic in Bulgarian: Новокаменна епоха
neolithic in Catalan: Neolític
neolithic in Chuvash: Неолит
neolithic in Czech: Neolit
neolithic in Danish: Yngre stenalder
neolithic in German: Jungsteinzeit
neolithic in Estonian: Neoliitikum
neolithic in Modern Greek (1453-): Νεολιθική περίοδος
neolithic in Spanish: Neolítico
neolithic in Esperanto: Neolitiko
neolithic in French: Néolithique
neolithic in Galician: Neolítico
neolithic in Korean: 신석기 시대
neolithic in Croatian: Mlađe kameno doba
neolithic in Italian: Neolitico
neolithic in Hebrew: תקופת האבן החדשה
neolithic in Latin: Neolithicum
neolithic in Latvian: Neolīts
neolithic in Lithuanian: Neolitas
neolithic in Hungarian: Neolitikum
neolithic in Macedonian: Неолит
neolithic in Maltese: Neolitiku
neolithic in Dutch: Neolithicum
neolithic in Japanese: 新石器時代
neolithic in Norwegian: Neolittisk tid
neolithic in Piemontese: Età dla pera
neolithic in Polish: Neolit
neolithic in Portuguese: Neolítico
neolithic in Russian: Неолит
neolithic in Albanian: Neoliti
neolithic in Slovenian: Neolitik
neolithic in Serbian: Неолит
neolithic in Finnish: Neoliittinen kausi
neolithic in Swedish: Neolitisk tid
neolithic in Vietnamese: Thời kỳ đồ đá mới
neolithic in Turkish: Yeni Taş Çağı
neolithic in Ukrainian: Неоліт
neolithic in Contenese: 新石器時代
neolithic in Chinese: 新石器时代
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