Anthropology - Other

Neolithic Period and the Birth of Farming

Nancy Seddens's image for:
"Neolithic Period and the Birth of Farming"
Image by: 

The term Neolithic is used to designate the period where farming took hold and replaced the former hunter gatherer culture. Different geographic areas entered their Neolithic period at different times. Farming brought not only increased nutritional security but also enabled and promoted weaving and pottery for food gather and storage.

During the Mesolithic period humans lived a literal hand to mouth existence. Men hunted for meat and woman gather fruits, nuts and grains. Meat was a feast or famine prospect while the wild fruits and grains gathered were pitifully small compared to what is available today.

As each civilization experienced a few good years where hunting, gathering and weather combined to enable an increase in population, there came a time where the idea of wandering to find their food did not seem the best use of their energy. The change did not come all at once but was a gradual transition that depended on several factors.

Weather Change

The end of the last ice age, approximately 12,000 years ago, brought warmer temperatures and additional rains changing the environment as well as the ecosystems to which humans had grown accustomed. Hunting became more difficult as plains were transformed into thickly wooded areas; now, instead of hunting herds, the men had to track animals in areas where the game could easily hide. A successful hunting party brought home less meat than previous ones did, and the dilemma of maintaining a large enough contingent of men to provide meat without having too many mouths to feed forced change.

Increase of human population

A careful balance of able bodied hunters to non-hunter had to be maintained yet there was also the problem of too many humans in an area for the amount of game. Many times tribes were too large for an area and would split into two tribes neither large enough to easily survive.  At first a combination of farming and hunter gather society was used and as it succeeded tribes grew and changed their focus on how to survive.

At first a few grains and vegetables were planted in small plots with the group moving on and returning later to harvest what the wild life had not scavenged. Then, building on a limited success, more permanent camp was built with larger more varied garden plots. While the strongest hunters would track game the old men, young boys and women stayed at camp to tend to the gardens.

The gardens became larger and finally supplied a larger enough portion of the diet to make permanent settlements viable. Eventually, the idea of catching some young animals and bringing them back to be raised to supplement the hunting became popular. Necessity led to invention of basket weaving and pottery; the stable supply of food bringing an increase in population to work the land and the leisure to produce innovations in food production, gathering and storage.

More about this author: Nancy Seddens

From Around the Web

  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrow
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrow