Neolithic Revolution


Map of Southwest Asia showing the main archaeological sites of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period, c. 7500 BC.

The Neolithic Revolution, or the (First) Agricultural Revolution, was the wide-scale transition of many human cultures during the Neolithic period from a lifestyle of hunting and gathering to one of agriculture and settlement, making an increasingly large population possible.[1] These settled communities permitted humans to observe and experiment with plants, learning how they grew and developed.[2] This new knowledge led to the domestication of plants into crops.[2][3]

Archaeological data indicates that the domestication of various types of plants and animals happened in separate locations worldwide, starting in the geological epoch of the Holocene 11,700 years ago.[4] It was the world's first historically verifiable revolution in agriculture. The Neolithic Revolution greatly narrowed the diversity of foods available, resulting in a downturn in the quality of human nutrition compared with that obtained previously from foraging.[5][6][7]

The Neolithic Revolution involved far more than the adoption of a limited set of food-producing techniques. During the next millennia it transformed the small and mobile groups of hunter-gatherers that had hitherto dominated human pre-history into sedentary (non-nomadic) societies based in built-up villages and towns. These societies radically modified their natural environment by means of specialized food-crop cultivation, with activities such as irrigation and deforestation which allowed the production of surplus food. Other developments that are found very widely during this era are the domestication of animals, pottery, polished stone tools, and rectangular houses. In many regions, the adoption of agriculture by prehistoric societies caused episodes of rapid population growth, a phenomenon known as the Neolithic demographic transition.

These developments, sometimes called the Neolithic package, provided the basis for centralized administrations and political structures, hierarchical ideologies, depersonalized systems of knowledge (e.g. writing), densely populated settlements, specialization and division of labour, more trade, the development of non-portable art and architecture, and greater property ownership. The earliest known civilization developed in Sumer in southern Mesopotamia (c.  6,500 BP); its emergence also heralded the beginning of the Bronze Age.[8]

The relationship of the aforementioned Neolithic characteristics to the onset of agriculture, their sequence of emergence, and empirical relation to each other at various Neolithic sites remains the subject of academic debate, and varies from place to place, rather than being the outcome of universal laws of social evolution.[9][10] The Levant saw the earliest developments of the Neolithic Revolution from around 10,000 BC, followed by sites in the wider Fertile Crescent.

  1. ^ Jean-Pierre Bocquet-Appel (29 July 2011). "When the World's Population Took Off: The Springboard of the Neolithic Demographic Transition". Science. 333 (6042): 560–561. Bibcode:2011Sci...333..560B. doi:10.1126/science.1208880. PMID 21798934. S2CID 29655920.
  2. ^ a b Pollard, Elizabeth; Rosenberg, Clifford; Tigor, Robert (2015). Worlds together, worlds apart. Vol. 1 (concise ed.). New York: W.W. Norton & Company. p. 23. ISBN 978-0-393-25093-0.
  3. ^ Compare:Lewin, Roger (18 February 2009) [1984]. "35: The origin of agriculture and the first villagers". Human Evolution: An Illustrated Introduction (5 ed.). Malden, Massachusetts: John Wiley & Sons (published 2009). p. 250. ISBN 978-1-4051-5614-1. Retrieved 20 August 2017. [...] The Neolithic transition involved increasing sedentism and social complexity, which was usually followed by the gradual adoption of plant and animal domestication. In some cases, however, plant domestication preceded sedentism, particularly in the New World.
  4. ^ "International Stratigraphic Chart". International Commission on Stratigraphy. Archived from the original on 12 February 2013. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
  5. ^ Armelagos, George J. (2014). "Brain Evolution, the Determinates of Food Choice, and the Omnivore's Dilemma". Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 54 (10): 1330–1341. doi:10.1080/10408398.2011.635817. ISSN 1040-8398. PMID 24564590. S2CID 25488602.
  6. ^ Cite error: The named reference :1 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  7. ^ Cite error: The named reference Larsen2006 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  8. ^ Violatti, Cristian (2 April 2018). "Neolithic Period". World History Encyclopedia.
  9. ^ "The Slow Birth of Agriculture" Archived 1 January 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Heather Pringle
  10. ^ "Wizard Chemi Shanidar". EMuseum. Minnesota State University. Archived from the original on 18 June 2008.

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