What does Neolithic mean?

So let’s get back to the basics here and answer the above question. Why? Because, I’ve been asked this question far too many times and decided that I’ll be proactive about it and put out a little summary post on what neolithic means, when did it happen, and what exactly happened.

Etymologically speaking, neolithic can be broken down into two parts. One is the “neo” meaning new. And the other is “lithic” which is stone. If you put the two together you get new stone. From that, Neolithic is used to describe an era and way of life in human evolution. Specifically this era was the last of the stone ages.

The first evidence of Neolithic culture popped up about 10,500 years before the present in the Levant, an area currently known as Jericho and/or Palestine. The evidence I speak of is archaeological signs that the first agricultural revolution occurred during this period, a critical transition from nomadic hunting and gathering lifestyles that characterized much of prehistoric humanity to agriculture and settlement and ultimately civilization. This transition also heralded in a massive restructuring in social organization and a new dawn in technology. Roles became more specialized.

This way of life had several characteristic waves, and with each it propagated out of the Near East to other areas of the world. The current classification is as follows:

  • Neolithic 1 — Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA)
    • Major characteristic of PPNA is true farming.
  • Neolithic 2 — Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB)
  • Neolithic 3 — Pottery Neolithic (PN)
    • Distinctive cultures
    • Pottery technology

Paleolithic Stone ToolsNeolithic Stone ToolsThe best way I can personally think of documenting how significant the changes that occurred during the Neolithic, is by showing you a comparison of stone tools. The two images you see here are examples of Paleolithic and Neolithic stone tools. While I know these two periods are displaced by thousands of years, little changed up until the short time period that catalyzed the Neolithic. The photograph on the left is Paleolithic stone tools from Nubia and on the right are Neolithic stone tools from the middle east.

So do you see the significant differences between the two technologies? I hope you do. Now imagine how these differences represent an analogy to how entire ways of living changed upon the Neolithic and then you should get a feel for how important this period was.

8 thoughts on “What does Neolithic mean?

  1. What are the significances of the difference in the stone tools from from Neolithic to Nubia?

    I see the smoothness is one difference, is there more and what is significant about that? I am curious. Thanks.

  2. Fran the Neolithic stone tools are much more complex to manufacture and are specialized in function. Tools were made to last and most likely made by professionals.

    The Paleolithic are much more simple, one time use tools that were made to fit a lot of tasks. These tools were likely made by almost every individual since they are so abundant and so basic.

    The differences between the two stone tool types represent the differences between the two eras, in my mind. One era, the Paleolithic, was much more nomadic. People moved a lot. They didn’t have time to make complicated stone tools to lug around. Instead they made quick and easy tools to say cut up some meat.

    The Neolithic stone tools represent a different way of living. During this time people were more sedentary. With agriculture came time for leisure, divisions of labor and skill specialties. Special classes of people had to make the tools and they were damn good at it too. Look at the craftsmanship in the Neolithic stone tools.

    Ultimately what I am getting at is the the Neolithic represents one of the most important transition periods during human evolution.

      1. Is that true, $74,041 USD per gram? I have very good examples of neolithic axe heads, hammers,pestles and morters, just to name some.

  3. Hello,
    I am doing a thesis on the Neolithic Era Where did you find your information and is it alright if I use your information in my thesis with correct citations of course and can I use your name also in my thesis?

    Maria N Sanchez

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