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General Features of Neolithic Revolution

What are the characteristics of Neolithic Culture:

Domestication of animals and plants is often attributed to Neolithic revolution. Neolithic revolution is used to describe change from hunting gathering economy to an economy based on farming and the Technologies that included polished stone tools pottery, and weaving.

According to Scholars the Neolithic evolution is as important as industrial revolution or maybe more than that because without agriculture there would never have been an industrial revolution in first place.

But using the word "revolution" misleads because industrial revolution took around hundred years where is Neolithic revolution took almost 3000 to 4000 years. Where is Industrial Revolution can be attributed with inventions such as steam engine, but on the other hand domestication of plants and animals cannot be considered as invention. Infact it was a very slow and gradual process in which humans according to their needs and requirements manipulated the traits of animals and plans for their advantage.

The term Neolithic was coined by Sir John Lubbock in 1865 in his book Prehistoric Times to denote an Age in which the stone implements were more varied and skilfully made and often polished.

V. Gordon Childe defined the Neolithic-Chalcolithic culture as a self-sufficient food producing economy. M.C. Burkitt further outlined some characteristic features for the Neolithic culture such as the practice of agriculture, domestication of animals in terms of economic life and grinding and polishing of stone tools, and also manufacture of pottery in terms of technology. These concepts have been modified time to time with new research and archaeological evidence found at different sites all over the world.

The Neolithic or New Stone Age denotes to a stage of human culture following the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic periods and is characterized by the use of polished stone implements, development of permanent dwellings, cultural advances such as pottery making, domestication of animals and plants, the cultivation of grain and fruit trees, and weaving.

The change in the economic mode and life style from hunting/gathering/foraging to primitive farming appeared so abruptly that this overall change in human life is often referred as the “Neolithic Revolution”. Slowly in course of time, the later Neolithic periods with the discovery of smelting and the creation of copper tools have been identified as Chalcolithic period and then, cultures with bronze artefacts have been given the name or coined as Bronze Age.

These developed periods with invention of different metals with developed agriculture and farming activities led to the emergence of more complex societies. All of these complex societies emerged in the fertile valleys of different river located in different parts of the globe.

Some of these early groups settled in the fertile valleys of the Nile, Tigris-Euphrates, Yellow, and Indus Rivers. These settlements with surplus agricultural product and trade subsequently resulted in the rise of the great civilizations in Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, and India.

Some of the early centers where early domestication of plants and animals has been recorded are:

  1. In West Asian context, several early Neolithic sites have been identified at Jericho and Ain Ghazal in Jordan, Tepe Guran and Ali Kosh in Iran, Catal Huyuk in Turkey, and Cayonu in north Syria which revealed evidence of early agriculture of wheat and barley and domesticated animals such as sheep and goats.
  2. In Southeast Asian context, excavations at the Spirit Cave in Thailand revealed plants remains of almond, pepper, cucumber, betel nut, beans, and peas, however, it is yet to confirm whether all of them were cultivated.
  3. In East Asian context, south China has revealed evidence of rice cultivation and the domestication of water buffalo, dog, and pig.
  4. In South American context, the people of Mexico were growing corn, beans, squash, gourds, avocados, and chilli pepper, and were domesticating turkeys, dogs, and honeybees.
  5. In sub-Saharan African context, the cultivation of finger millet, sorghum, rice, teff, and yams, and the domestication of sheep, goats, and cattle have been recorded.
  6. In South Asian context, Mehrgarh has yielded evidence of barley and wheat cultivation, and cattle, sheep, and goat domestication. Recent excavations at the site of Lahuradeva in Uttar Pradesh have brought to light early dates for rice cultivation in India.

Comparison between hunter-gatherers and farmers

The table below indicates the basic differences between hunter-gatherers and farmers.



Hunting gathering economy, economy based on wild resources

Economy based on domesticated crops and animals

Mobile (very few possessions of material culture)

Sedentary (some accumulation of

possessions, esp. pottery, in permanent dwellings)


Low population density

High population density

Overall stability of groups

Expansion necessary due to population increase

Relatively little impact on environment

Clearance of land for arable farming;

impact of livestock (use of ground

Stone axes and fire in clearance)

Sparse archaeological record

(campsites, rock shelters, debitage


Archaeological imprint on landscape

(settlements, boundaries, monuments)

The term ‘Neolithic Revolution’ was introduced by V. Gordon Childe in 1936. The Neolithic revolution led to several changes in human societies which include the creation of cities and permanent dwellings, food storage and granaries, pottery making, labour specialization, sense of personal property, more complex hierarchical social structures, non-agricultural crafts specialisations, trade and barter systems, etc. From being nomads before the onset of agriculture, human adopted the sedentary life style relying on domestications of plants and animals for their survival. Here we shall discuss some of the features of Neolithic Revolution.

Domestications of Plants

The human evolution in the last 10,000 years BP, which is geologically termed as the Holocene period, witnesses a revolutionary change in the history of human being. During this time, early man acquired slowly the knowledge of taming and bringing several animals and plants under their control, which finally lead to the early domestication process.

Domestication simply means ‘to bring plants/animals under human control, to tame’. It is an evolutionary process during which many behavioural traits have changed from the wild types to the existing domesticated populations. The grains of wild varieties of plants like wheat, barley, rice etc. usually fall on the ground before maturation which makes difficulties for harvesting. With the beginning of farming and irrigation, these plants lost many of their wild characters. Yields gradually increased with intense care of the early farmers. The Neolithic farmers selected those varieties which could retain the seeds longer for mature harvesting.

Agriculture refers to a series of discoveries involving the domestication, culture, and management of plants and animals. Agriculture was adopted repeatedly and independently in various parts of the world after the retreat of the Pleistocene ice around 12,000 years ago.

The precise origin of the first centre of agriculture is unknown. The earliest evidence of agricultural development occurs in the area known as the Fertile Crescent (present day Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel). Agriculture also developed in other areas such as China and Meso-America but at a later date. The precise push to develop agriculture is not clear but a number of reasons have been speculated. Different plants were cultivated in different areas by the early Neolithic people, i.e. wheat and barley Southwest Asia, rice in East, South and Southeast Asia, maize in America and sorghum and millet in Africa.

Centres of Agricultural Origin: Single or Multiple?

The hunter-gatherers of the Near East (Fertile Crescent) were probably the first to adopt an agricultural lifestyle around 8500 B.C., based upon the cereals barley and wheat and on domesticated goats and sheep. They were followed by the maize-cultivators of Central Mexico around 8000 B.C. and the rice producers along the Yangtze River around 7500 B.C. Recent genetic research has indicated that multiple domestications of the same wild plants and animals probably have occurred more often than previously believed. For instance, it has been shown that apart from in the Near East, the goat was independently domesticated in the Indus Valley whereas cattle were domesticated both in the Near East and in East Asia. In Europe, agricultural practices were adopted only after the spread of domesticated plants and animals from the Near East.

Map of the world showing approximate centers of origin of agriculture and its spread in prehistory, i.e. eastern USA (4000–3000 BP), Central Mexico (5000–4000 BP), Northern South America (5000–4000 BP), sub-Saharan Africa (5000–4000 BP, exact location unknown), the Fertile Crescent (11000 BP), the Yangtze and Yellow River basins (9000 BP) and the New Guinea Highlands (9000–6000 BP).

In a review published in the journal Science on the expansions of the farmers to different parts of the world, Jared Diamond and Peter Bellwood show intimate connections of agricultural origins with language spread and dispersals. They discussed the possible dispersal routes of Neolithic/formative cultures worldwide.

According to them, until the end of the Pleistocene, all people on all continents lived as hunter-gatherers and subsequently at different times between about 8500 and 2500 B.C., food production based on domestication of relatively few wild plants and animal species arose independently in different homelands of agriculture and herding, scattered over all inhabited continents except Australia.

As food production was advantages to farmers compared with hunter-gatherers living outside those homelands, it triggered outward dispersals of farming populations, bearing their languages and lifestyles.

Archaeological map of agricultural origin and spread of Neolithic cultures around the world

Causes of Domestications of Plants

Several hypotheses are made for explaining the causes of domestications of plants which is the basis of Neolithic Revolution. V Gordon Childe in 1952 suggested that environmental changes at the end of the Pleistocene were the impetus towards food production and argued that about 10,000 years ago, the climate in parts of West Asia became drier due to a northward shift of the summer rains. This drying up led to a concentration of people, plants, and animals close to water resources such as rivers and oases. This enforced closeness eventually led to new relationships of dependence between humans, plants, and animals, resulting in domestication.

Subsequently the theory of Gordon Childe was questioned by Robert J. Braidwood in 1960. Braidwood opined that the environmental changes had occurred within the Pleistocene as well and had not led to agriculture. According to him, domestication took place in certain nuclear zones, which supported a variety of wild plants and animals that had the potential for domestication. In such areas, domestication was the natural outcome of human experimentation and people getting to know their environment better.

Further, the theory of Braidwood was criticized by Lewis R. Binford in 1968 who emphasized on the external demographic stress and argued that at the end of the Pleistocene era, as a result of a rise in sea levels, people living along the coasts migrated to less populated inland areas. This upset the people-food equilibrium in inland areas and gave an impetus to the search for new strategies to increase food supplies.

According to Kent Flannery, the event that might have led to the beginnings of food production is the process of food production itself and the adaptive advantages of plant and animal domestication over foraging and hunting. He distinguished two types of food procurement systems, i.e. negative and positive feedback food procurement systems.

Negative feedback food procurement systems involve a balanced exploitation and use of various food resources within an area and discourage any change. Positive feedback systems are those in which the productivity of resources actually increases as a result of human interference and exploitation.

Considering the variety in ecology and resources in the various centers of early plant and animal domestication, it is very possible that different factors may have been involved in different parts of the world.

Model of David Harris on the Origin of Agriculture

David Harris presents a model of a transition from hunting gathering stage to agriculture in four stages.

  1. The first stage involves wild plant-food procurement by the hunter-gatherers, who occasionally burn the vegetation; gather and protect useful plants and fruits and thereby reduce competition between plants and disturb the soil. In this stage, human energy and input is minimal and the environment in neither affected in large scale nor dramatically changed. This kind of wild plant-food procurement-economy marks a departure from even more primitive stages of hunting life style. This period was the initial stage.
  2. The next stage is characterised by wild plant-food production with some tillage which can be considered as an important step towards agriculture. Maintenance of plant populations in wild form was done in terms of both planting; sowing and weeding of wild plants. Men propagated seeds from some selected plants with desirable characteristics in new habitats and after harvesting, some of the seeds were stored for future use.
  3. Cultivation with systematic tillage characterises the third stage in which the land was cleared and food-producing activities such as sowing, weeding, propagation of plants, etc. were carried out in large scale and intensely. Significant morphological and genetic changes occurred in the plants due to intense care. Due to care, quantity of seeds increased which led to surplus production. This could afford a good number of human populations in terms of food people could stay in one place leading to sedentary settlement.
  4. The final stage is described in terms of development of new technology for food production which is highly energy intensive. Men started selective cultivation of plants, which means they selected the plants which were more productive. New genotypes eventually appeared that serve human needs more efficiently marks this energy intensive stage.

Source Material for Studying Ancient Agriculture

It will be pertinent here to discuss the basis of our study of ancient agriculture. What are the source materials? Archaeobotany is the study of the preserved seeds, fruits, nutshells, and other plant macrofossils found in archaeological context which hints us about the ancient human plant use. It is the analysis and interpretation of the remains of ancient plants recovered from the archaeological record such as macrofossil and microfossils. Macrofossils are the plant parts such as seeds, nutshells, and stems, preserved in the archaeological records which are clearly visible to the naked eyes whereas the plant microfossils such as pollen which contains the male gametes of seed-producing plants and phytoliths which are the silica structures formed in the cells of many plants are other important source of data. By studying these plant remains, archaeo-botanist identifies wild and domestic variety of plants and reconstruct ancient agricultural pattern.

Archaeobotanists are involved in the identification and interpretation of all kinds of plant remains found on archaeological sites. Remains range from tiny microscopic pollen to larger fragments of charcoal, seeds, fruits and nuts. The identification of these materials can provide a general picture of the role of plants in ancient diets as well as environmental information. Flotation is done for obtaining seeds and other organic materials from soil by using liquids.

Domestication of Animals

Another important aspect of the Neolithic revolution is that at this stage people began to domesticate or tame animals they were hunting previously. They herded these animals and kept in rough enclosures where grasslands are available. The size, temperament, diet, mating patterns, and life span of animals were factors in the desire and success in the domestications of animals. These animals formed a large source of protein and food in these Neolithic communities. Animals such as cows and goats provided milk which is a rich source of protein. Some of the animals have the ability to as a work in ploughing as well as a food sources which were important factors for this selection. Certain animals provided materials like leather, wool, hides, and fertilizer. Some of the earliest domesticated animals include dogs (about 15,000 years ago) sheep, goats, cows, and pigs.

Morphological Change in Plant and Animals with domestication

With domestications certain morphological changes occurred. Early domesticated animals became smaller than their wild counterparts, however, at later stage, when conditions of feeding and breeding reach an optimal level, their size increased. The face becomes shorter in relation to the cranium, teeth become smaller, some teeth disappeared, and size of the horn got reduced. Domestication also leads to a shortening of the animal's hair and changes in its coloration. However, these markers of domestication vary between species. The horns of domesticated sheep and goats differ in several respects from those of their wild ancestors, domesticated pigs have smaller teeth, and domesticated cattle are generally smaller than their wild ancestor.

Many changes occurred morphologically in the animals during domestication such as body size, horn size, etc. These animals were manipulated through restriction of their mobility, selective hunting, protection from predators etc. Compared to the large number of animals existed in planet, only a few animals were domesticated. In his book Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond lists a set of criteria which were to be meet before an animal could be domesticated such as the animals which have quick sexual maturity, be able to bred in captivity, be less aggressive and not dangerous to humans etc.

In case of plants like wheat and barley, important morphological changes are a relatively large seed size, a thinner seed coat, and packaging in compact clusters at the end of stalks.

Surplus Food Grain, Storage and Trade

As agricultural products increased, there was the need for storing the yields which could be used for the next few months and moreover to keep some grain as seeds for the next agriculture. If there was more surplus food, those could be given to another person or group in exchange of other material, known as barter system.

With more perfection of agricultural techniques, early farmers were benefited with surplus grains which needed storage. Contrast to the hunter gatherers who could not easily store food for long due to their migratory lifestyle, early farmers with a sedentary dwelling could store their surplus grain. This resulted in the development of granaries that allowed them to store their seeds longer. So with surplus food grains and food security, the population expanded and large populations could be sustained. This benefit of farming led the community to sustain during drought or flooding or any other natural calamity. Moreover, these surpluses could also be exchanged with other communities marking the early beginnings of trade.

Slowly society developed with the surplus food supply which can be considered as the most significant pre-condition for the emergence and development of cities. Because of these developments, Neolithic period can be considered as one of the major turning points in human history. The use of agriculture allowed humans to develop permanent settlements, social classes, and new technologies.

Technological Achievements

New technologies developed in response to the need for better tools and weapons to go along with the new way of living. Neolithic people started making tool for their agricultural purpose and eventually developed metal technologies to shape their requirements. Neolithic revolution happened in several places of the world, differently and independently. Pottery appeared later than agriculture the Near East, however, in Japan, pottery developed much before agriculture. Invention of pottery is one of the significant aspects of Neolithic culture. The wheel is not only the basis for the mechanical and transportation revolution but is involved with the technologies of ceramics and spinning.

From Neolithic period onwards, man started making ground and polished stone tools which are also referred to by the general term Celt. These axes and adzes were probably used to cut trees and bashes in order to clear land for agricultural use. The pointed variety of celt might have been used as a plough or hoe. In all probability, apart from clearing ground, many of these tools were also used for tilling the soil. The ring stones found at a number of sites could have been used as a weight in a digging stick by passing a thick wooden shaft through the hole.

The development of sedentary settlements accelerated the pace of technological development which were directly connected to agriculture, including plows, implements, techniques of seed selection, and irrigation.

Increased Disease

Another significant feature of the Neolithic revolution is the increase of disease among the early farmers. Disease spread more rapidly during this period than hunter-gathering stage. Inadequate sanitary practices and the domestication of animals were probably the main causes of this problem of deaths and sickness due to the increase of disease, probably the diseases jumped from the animal to the human population. The diseases like influenza, smallpox, and measles etc. spread from animals to humans. However, in the process of natural selection, the humans built up immunities to the diseases. Some other diseases are malaria, tuberculosis, influenza etc.

Research of nutrition and disease based on an analysis of human bones suggest that hunter-gatherers had a high-protein diet, one that was more varied, balanced, and healthy compared to that of early farmers, whose diet tended to be high in carbohydrates, with an emphasis on cereals or root crops. Paleo-pathology, the study of ancient disease explains the high incidence of disease reflected in the bones of certain early farming communities.

Demographic Changes and Social Transformations

Neolithic revolution brought demographic changes to the early societies. The food production supports higher populations and due to collaborative efforts of the family members agricultural products increased. As man settled down at one place, they could afford more children and family expanded.

There were certain social transformations happened in the early societies in terms of grouping at various organizational level such as families, chiefdoms and finally states. Social stratification / hierarchy are another important aspect which grew side by side. The food producers became farmers, craft specialised persons formed craftsmen’s groups, religious elites possessed the priesthoods, hereditary rulers became kings, slavery and gender discrimination started and further warfare and trade, law and defence mechanism formed. With the development of state, political (territory-based) institutions, organized religion, urban/administrative centres, hierarchical system of classes, division and specialization of labour, technological development and trade and at a later stage writing emerged.

The Neolithic Revolution is not only important for developments in social organization and technology but also include an increased tendency to live in permanent or semi-permanent settlements.

Now let us see some important areas where Neolithic culture started considerably early to understand the features of Neolithic revolution. There are some important sites which help in understanding Neolithic revolution, such as Mehrgarh in South Asia, Catal Huyuk in Anatolia, i.e. modern Turkey, Jericho in Jordan Valley, Palestine, etc.

Evidence from Mehrgarh

To understand the Neolithic Revolution, it will be interesting to discuss the evidence from the site of Mehrgarh which is located on the Bolan river, a tributary of the Indus, at the eastern edge of the Baluchistan plateau overlooking the Indus plain. Excavations at Mehrgarh by the French Archaeological Mission to Pakistan, under the direction of Jean-Francois Jarrige since 1974, have revealed excellent evidence of technology, economy, material culture and social organization of the pioneering farmers of South Asia. There are several Neolithic settlements like Rana Ghundai and Kili Ghul Mohammad in the hilly terrain of Baluchistan dated to fourth millennium BCE. The site has not only pushed back the antiquity of settled village life in the subcontinent to the seventh millennium B.C. but also provided ample evidence with rich archaeological record the origin and development of early farming communities leading to the great Harappan Civilisation for understanding the features of Neolithic revolution in true sense.

The chronology of the site has been divided into eight periods which are discussed in tabulated form below:

Period IA

The earliest, dated from ca. 6,000 B.C. to 4,400 B.C., is characterized by polished stone tools, microliths and bone tools. The subsistence economy in this period was combination of hunting, stock-breeding and plant cultivation. The domesticated animals comprise cattle, sheep, goat and water buffalo while the cultivated plants comprise several varieties of wheat and barley. The houses were made of mud and mud-bricks. Multiple rooms without doors might have been used for storage purpose. The dead were buried under the floors of the houses where people lived. Necklaces of microbeads of steatite along with beads of turquoise, lapis lazuli and sea shell, stone axes and microliths have also been found in the graves. As this period was devoid of pottery, it has been termed as Pre-Pottery Neolithic period. The presence of beads of several materials, not available locally, suggests long distance trade.

Period IB

Period IB witnessed the appearance of pottery. With the passage of time, agriculture dominated the economic condition over hunting.

Period II

Period II, dated to later part of the fifth millennium BCE, is

technology. The pottery of sub-period IIA is handmade, basket-impressed coarse ware, of which the quality improved in sub-period IIB and in sub-period IIC wheel-made pottery first appeared. The potteries of buff to reddish colour were painted in black pigment with simple straight and curved lines, rows of dots and criss-crosses. The vessel shapes included bowls and globular pots. Discovery of a copper ring and a bead show the emergence of metal technology. Terracotta human figurines and bangles first appeared from this stage. Appearance of a new variety of barley, which can be grown only in irrigated fields, suggests improvement in farming technology. The presence of cotton seeds suggests the possibility of the use of this fibre for textile manufacture.

Period III


In Period III the size of the settlement increased. The ceramic industry developed, the vessels were decorated with paintings of birds and animals as well as geometric designs. Evidence of stone bead manufacture and copper smelting were found at the site. Architectural remains include a large granary with multiple rectangular cells, much larger than the granaries of the preceding periods.

Period IV

Period IV is marked by the emergence of Multicolored pottery with a tall goblet with wide mouth and a pedestal base as a new shape. There is evidence of extensive use of timber in the construction of houses, of female terracotta figurines with pendulous breasts and of stamped seals of terracotta and bone. The appearance of seals, including compartmented ones, in terracotta and stone indicates the emergence of commercial transactions.

Period V


Period V was short-lived and is characterized by a marked decline in polychrome decoration on pottery.

Period VI


Period VI, belonging to the first quarter of the third millennium B.C., witnessed an explosion in pottery styles and the first evidence of pottery kilns. Pipal leaf and humped bull designs appear on pottery which anticipates Harappan motifs. Similarly, terracotta figurines also witnessed proliferation. The female figurines show elaborate hairdos.

Period VII


Period VII can be dated to the middle of the third millennium B.C. on the basis of ceramic similarities with sites in the Indus Valley and Afghanistan which is marked by the richness and variety of terracotta figurines. The evidence of a very large mud-brick platform signifies the emergence of monumental architecture.

Period VIII


The last occupation during period VIII is represented by some structures, graves, semi-precious stone beads and a bronze shaft hole axe.

Early Farmers of Western Asia

The Western Asian region embraces Palestine, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, the Caspian basin and the adjoining regions of Iran. Archaeologists have identified the earliest farming village settlements in these areas. Farming began in Palestine, Syria and Turkey in the ninth-eighth millennium B.C. There are a number of sites which demonstrate settled communities of farmers in West Asia. In Western Asia crop cultivation and domestication of animals are inter-related at certain sites whereas in some regions agriculture came before the domestication of animals.

The Fertile Crescent, the wide belt of Southwest Asia which includes Southern Turkey, Palestine, Lebanon and North Iraq was one of the important areas where Neolithic farming practice originated. Wild wheat and barley were commonly collected by the local dwellers and these formed an important part of the hunter-gatherers in these areas. Subsequently early agriculture started in these areas. The site of Catal-Huyuk in Southern Turkey is one of the most important sites in this region demonstrating early Neolithic period.

In the Levant area, the chronology can be reconstructed as:

(1) Epi-Palaeolithic groups such as the Kebaran and Natufian which are approximately 12,500 BC to 10,000 BC with increasingly intensive hunting, gathering, and cultivation of wild plants;
(2) Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) from 10,000 to 8700 BC, and
(3) Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) from 8700 to 6800;
(4) Pre-Pottery Neolithic C (PPNC) and
(5) Pottery Neolithic (PN).

Evidence from Catal Huyuk

The site of Catal Huyuk in Turkey was first excavated by James Mellaart between 1961 and 1965. It is dated to 7400–6000 BC and occurs a long time after the first sedentary settlements in the Middle East which emerge in the period between the twelfth and ninth millennia BC and well after the first domesticated plants in the ninth millennium BC.

The site has remarkably dense settlement. The Neolithic economy was based on a wide range of domesticated and wild plants and based only partially on domesticated animals such as sheep and goat.

Catal Huyuk was a large village in which wheat, barley and peas were grown and animals like cattle, sheep and goat were domesticated. The mud houses which were supposed to be entered through the roof consisted of two rooms and were built back to back. The Walls of the houses were found painted with leopards, erupting volcano and vultures devouring human corpses without heads.

Evidence of material culture at this place has been found in the forms of pottery, stone axes, stone ornaments, bone tools, wooden bowls and basketry.

Analysis of the seed samples collected in the 1960’s excavations at Catal Huyuk suggests that the Neolithic population collected, processed and stored seeds from Capsella sp. and Descurainia sp. (wild crucifers) for food use. In addition seeds of Vicia/Lathyrus sp. (wild vetch), Helianthemum spp. and Taeniatherum caputmedusae mixed with Eremopyrum type (grasses) were also found, some of which may have been used for food or other purposes. The analysis demonstrates that wild seed exploitation was a regular part of subsistence practice alongside the economic staple of crop production, and again demonstrates how diverse plant use practices were at the site.

Evidence from Jericho

The Jordan Valley and the Damascus basin form the Western part of the Fertile Crescent. It is distinguished from the Northern and Eastern parts mainly for the very early domestication of grasses like wheat and barley. The area of greatest archaeological interest within the Jordan Valley is a small piece of land no more than 15 km in radius, situated on the northern edge of the Dead Sea. This small area contains three important archaeological sites; Gilgal, Netiv Hagdud, and Jericho. In prehistoric times, all three sites were situated in close proximity to aquatic resources like swamps and lakes, but were otherwise surrounded by steppe grassland.

Clear evidence of domesticated plants has also been found in Jericho from around 8300 B.C. Although no certain evidence of domesticated seeds between 8500-7500 B.C. Jericho in Palestine became a large village where agriculture is evidenced but there is no evidence of animal domestication. During excavations it was found in the later levels that Jericho was surrounded by a two metre wide stone wall with rounded towers. This is one of the earliest instances of fortification in the world.

Evidence from Jarmo

The site of Jarmo of Northeastern Iraq was excavated in 1951 by Robert Braidwood of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago is dated to ca. 7,000 B.C. It is located on the crest of a hill overlooking a deep dry river made up of about 12 layers of habitation covering most of the Neolithic period. The houses were made of adobe (pressed mud); the earlier structures had no foundations, while later houses had stone foundations. Floors were made of mud, often packed over a layer of reeds. Each house had its own built-in oven and a baked-in receptacle in the floor.

At Jarmo there is also evidence of permanently established farming villages I (6500-5800 B.C.) with about 20 to 30 mud houses, each with a courtyard and several rooms associated with ground stone axes, querns, pottery, etc. The people grew wheat and barley and domesticated sheep and goat.

A general chronological framework of western Asia can be tabulated as:



Characteristic features


c. 1500 BC to the Pleistocene-Holocene boundary c. 8000 BC

Emergence in certain areas of food conservation by the herding of animals and the collection of grain. New tools are invented to facilitate grain collection, preparation and storage.

Aceramic or Pre-Pottery cultures

c. 8300-6000 BC

Agriculture, i.e. the planting of crops and the breeding of animals, appears at the very beginning of the next phase, soon after 8300 BC. Morphologically domestic sheep occur at Bus Mordeh, cultivated crops outside their natural habitat at Mureybet and Jericho PPNA. During the two thousand years or so of this period there is a steady development of agriculture on one site or another, which is evidently the result of increased contacts brought about by trade.

Fully Neolithic cultures with plain or painted pottery

c. 6000-4200 BC

Fully agricultural societies began expanding into hitherto marginal territories such as the alluvial plains of Mesopotamia, Transcaucasia and Transcaspia on the one hand, and into southeastern Europe on the other.

Neolithic revolution is the transformation of human societies from hunter-gatherer to farmers which occurred at around 10,000 years ago and brought along many profound changes to human society and culture. The fundamental change occurred due to the Neolithic Revolution was the shift from hunting and gathering stage that had sustained humans from earliest times to food producing stage based on domestications of plants and animals. The Neolithic way of life in all its aspects continued into the Chalcolithic and the Bronze Age.

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