1.4: The Neolithic Revolution and Rise of River Valley Civilizations
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Student Learning Objectives
At the end of this section, students will be able to
- Identify major causes and describe the major effects of the following events from 8000 BCE to 500 BCE: the development of agriculture.
The term Neolithic Revolution was coined in 1923 by V. Gordon Childe to describe the first in a series of agricultural revolutions in Middle Eastern history. The period is described as a "revolution" to denote its importance, and the great significance and degree of change affecting the communities in which new agricultural practices were gradually adopted and refined. However, calling this change a revolution can be misleading, as the shift from hunting/gathering lifestyles to settled, agrarian civilizations took place over thousands of years.
The beginning of this process varies in different regions. In the "Fertile Crescent" of Mesopotamia in the Middle East, the Neolithic Revolution began between 10,000 BCE and 8,000 BCE. In the Kuk Early Agricultural Site of Melanesia, this change occurred around 8000 BCE. In Sub-Saharan Africa, this process didn't occur until 2500 BCE. The developments that occurred in Mesopotamia between 9000 BCE and 7000 BCE are especially important, which is why this region is sometimes called the "Cradle of Civilization." Regardless, this transition everywhere seems associated with a change from a largely nomadic, hunter-gatherer way of life to a more settled, agrarian-based one. Humans learned to domesticate various plant and animal species — depending on the species locally available, and probably also influenced by local culture. Recent archaeological research suggests that in some regions such as the Southeast Asian peninsula, the transition from hunter-gatherer to agriculturalist was not linear, but region-specific.
A civilization (or civilisation in British English) is any complex society characterized by urban development, social stratification, symbolic communication forms (typically, writing systems), and a perceived separation from and domination over the natural environment. Civilizations are intimately associated with and often further defined by other socio-politico-economic characteristics, including centralization, the domestication of both humans and other organisms, specialization of labor, culturally ingrained ideologies of progress and supremacism, monumental architecture, taxation, societal dependence upon agriculture, and expansionism. Historically, a civilization was an "advanced" culture in contrast to more supposedly barbarian, savage, or primitive cultures. In this broad sense, a civilization contrasts with non-centralized feudal or tribal societies, including the cultures of nomadic pastoralists or hunter-gatherers. However, this definition implies a certain condescension and prejudice. As an uncountable noun, civilization also refers to the process of a society developing into a centralized, urbanized, stratified structure.
Civilizations are organized in densely populated settlements divided into hierarchical social classes with a ruling elite and subordinate urban and rural populations, which engage in intensive agriculture, mining, small-scale manufacture, and trade. Civilization concentrates power, extending human control over the rest of nature, including over other human beings.
Think fire wasn't a big deal? Think again. Read this article about how the origin of cooking affected our brains. Article Link
- List three examples of the earliest known places for agriculture to develop.
- Create a bubble map listing the elements of civilizations.
- Create a simple flow chart showing the sequence of events that led to the formation of civilization.
Discussion and Study Questions
- What were the techniques and methods used to develop farming and herding?
- What new challenges would sedentary societies face that they would not as a nomadic society?
- How did daily life change due to shifting from a nomadic lifestyle to a sedentary lifestyle?
- How did the role of women and family change after the Neolithic Revolution?
- What groups or institutions were formed to help develop and sustain an agricultural society?
- What is "surplus" and how did it lead to the development of civilization?
Quizlet Flashcard Vocabulary for Neolithic Revolution and the Rise of Agriculture
- a complex societiy characterized by cities, specialized workers, complex institutions, record keeping, and advanced technology.
- the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a society.
- the process by which humans take animals out of the wild and breed them for food production.
- a member of a culture in which food is obtained by hunting, fishing, and foraging rather than by agriculture or the domestication of animals.
- Neolithic Revolution
- the shift from hunter-gatherer lifestyles to settled, agrarian civilizations and the associated consequences. more of a transition than a revolution
- people who have no fixed residence but move from place to place in order to obtain food.
- of or relating to the earliest period of the Stone Age, ending about 15,000 years ago.