Physical Anthropology

Introduction to the Neolithic



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Throughout the records of history, characterization of human development has been a major challenge for modern archaeologists. It has been an ongoing process that involves making conclusions about a specific culture’s way of life, often with only a small array of human remains at their disposal.

Although it has been difficult for modern archaeologists to describe the lives of these populations, the equally daunting task of formulating criteria for human transition into a different period or age must also be addressed.

As a result, the dates given regarding these time periods are rough and often fluctuate with new discoveries, and with the development of modern technology (dating methods, etc).

Despite these difficulties, what modern archaeologists do have are the tangibles; many of which can be analyzed through a variety of different techniques that shed light on what life was like for these ancient populations.    
The first period that marks significant change from previous hunter-gatherer societies would be the Neolithic Period which dates from approximately 8500BC to 5000 BC.

This period of time encompasses a range of human innovation involving technology, agriculture, and more importantly, the emergence of social organization and dependence on agricultural settlements.

The most glaring indication of this Neolithic behavioral change can be seen within Neolithic architectural construction; an undertaking that would have required the investment of the individual in a larger cause.

Excavations at Nahal Oren, Netiv Ha-Gdud, and especially Jericho have also given researchers insight into their techniques and technology throughout the construction process.    

More specifically, this Neolithic architecture was comprised of structures with walls made from mud and brick. The foundations of these structures were usually made of stone or brick, with mortar functioning to fill in the gaps.

These buildings were mostly circular or oval in shape, and in some cases, were linked to other buildings (arguably serving as separate rooms). Of these buildings, the most famous found thus far has been the wall and tower excavated by Kenyon during the 1950s.

During this excavation, deep trenches were found along with a succession of reinforced walls that were consequently discovered. Within these walls was an extraordinarily massive tower standing 8.2 meters tall, with a diameter of around 9 meters (also containing a twenty step staircase within it).

Although one might presume that the colossal tower and walls found at Jericho were erected for defense, further research has shown that nature was in fact the true enemy. Overall, these walls are believed to have been preemptive measures taken to prevent the town of Jericho from being flooded with water and mud.

Evidently, while a lot of historic milestones marked the Neolithic Period, it also comes out that this was an age full of surprises.

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