The Neolithic Revolution, often known as the Agricultural Revolution, was the period in human history when small, nomadic bands of hunters gave way to bigger, agricultural settlements and early civilization. The Neolithic Revolution began in the Fertile Crescent, a boomerang-shaped region of the Middle East where humans first began farming. Shortly after, Stone Age humans in various parts of the world began to cultivate crops. The Neolithic Revolution’s innovations gave rise to civilizations and cities.
The Neolithic Age is also known as the New Stone Age. Neolithic humans used stone tools, just like their Stone Age forefathers, who survived in small bands of hunters during the previous Ice Age.
V. Gordon Childe, an Australian archaeologist, invented the term “Neolithic Revolution” in 1935 to characterize the radical and significant period of change during which humans began cultivating plants, breeding animals for sustenance, and establishing permanent communities. The introduction of agriculture separated the Neolithic people from their Paleolithic forefathers.
Many aspects of modern civilization may be traced back to this point in history when humans began living in communities.
The Neolithic Revolution’s Causes
There was no single cause that prompted people to start farming around 12,000 years ago. The Neolithic Revolution’s reasons may have differed from place to region.
Around 14,000 years ago, near the end of the last Ice Age, the Earth began to warm. Some scientists believe that climate change was the driving force behind the Agricultural Revolution.
Wild wheat and barley began to grow in the Fertile Crescent, which is limited on the west by the Mediterranean Sea and on the east by the Persian Gulf, as the weather warmed. Natufians, a pre-Neolithic culture, began to erect permanent dwellings in the area.
Other researchers believe that intellectual advancements in the human brain have caused humans to settle down. Religious objects and creative images have been discovered at the earliest Neolithic villages, indicating that they were precursors to modern civilisation.
The Neolithic Era began when some groups of humanity abandoned their nomadic, hunter-gatherer lifestyle in favor of farming. It may have taken hundreds or even thousands of years for people to fully move from a lifestyle of subsisting on wild plants to managing tiny gardens. Then, eventually, massive crop fields.
In southern Turkey, the archaeological site of atalhöyük is one of the best preserved Neolithic villages. The study of Atalhöyük has provided researchers with a greater understanding of the shift from a nomadic hunting and gathering lifestyle to an agricultural existence.
More than a dozen mud-brick homes have been discovered at the 9,500-year-old atalhöyük. They think that up to 8,000 people resided here at one time. The dwellings were so close together that people had to access them through a hole in the roof.
Attalhöyük’s inhabitants appear to have valued art and spirituality. They buried their dead beneath their homes’ floor. Murals showing men hunting, cattle, and female Goddesses adorn the walls of the homes.
The archaeological site of Tell Abu Hureyra, a small town located along the Euphrates River in modern Syria, contains some of the earliest traces of cultivation. From approximately 11,500 to 7,000 B.C., the settlement was inhabited.
Tell Abu Hureyra’s inhabitants first hunted gazelle and other game. They began picking wild grains around 9,700 B.C. At the site, several big stone implements for crushing grain were discovered.
- Plant domestication:
Cereals such as emmer wheat, einkorn wheat, and barley were among the first crops domesticated in the Fertile Crescent by Neolithic farming cultures. Lentils, chickpeas, peas, and flax were also domesticated by these early farmers.
Domestication is the process by which farmers breed consecutive generations of a plant or animal to select for desired qualities. A domestic species diverges from its wild counterpart over time.
Crops that were easily harvested were preferred by Neolithic farmers. When wild wheat is ripe, it falls to the ground and shatters. For easier harvesting, early people produced wheat that lingered on the stem.
Around the same time as farmers in the Fertile Crescent began to seed wheat, Asians began to grow rice and millet. Archaeologists have found Stone Age rice paddies in Chinese marshes dating back at least 7,700 years.
Squash cultivation began roughly 10,000 years ago in Mexico, whereas maize-like crops appeared around 9,000 years ago.
Domesticated livestock evolved from animals hunted for meat by Neolithic humans. Domestic pigs, for example, were developed from wild boars, whilst goats were derived from Persian ibex. Domesticated animals enabled the hard, physical labor of farming, while their milk and flesh supplemented the human diet. They also carried contagious diseases such as smallpox, influenza, and measles, which were transferred from domesticated animals to humans.
Sheep and cattle were among the first farm animals. Between 10,000 and 13,000 years ago, they first appeared in Mesopotamia. Soon after, water buffalo and yak were domesticated in China, India, and Tibet.
Oxen, donkeys, and camels arose considerably later, approximately 4,000 B.C., as people built trade routes for transporting commodities.
Effects of the Neolithic Revolution
The Neolithic Revolution followed in large numbers of people setting up permanent communities based on farming and agriculture. It prepared the stage for the subsequent Bronze and Iron Age breakthroughs, when advances in farming tools, wars, and art swept the world, bringing people together through trading and defeat.