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The Jungsteinzeit or Neolithic , fachsprachlich Neolithikum (from altgriech. Νέος Neos , new, young 'and λίθος lithos , stone') is a period of human history , as (initial) the transition from hunter-gatherer cultures is defined to shepherds and Bauer cultures . The decisive criterion for the beginning of the Neolithic is the evidence of domesticated crops.

Deviating from this, the Neolithic in the area of ​​influence of the former Soviet Union was and is defined by the presence of ceramics and the absence of metals, which is particularly significant in quotations (e.g. from David W. Anthony, who follows this practice for the Eastern European regions) This can lead to misunderstandings, since such a definition in international usage can mean both Mesolithic and Ceramic Neolithic .

According to current knowledge, the Neolithic began for the first time around 9500 BC. In the fertile crescent of the Near East (especially on the southern edges of the Zāgros and Taurus Mountains ). However, the start date is generally related to the region under consideration, so that the Neolithic Age in Central and Northwestern Europe, for example, only occurred between 5800 and 4000 BC. Began. In two or more other regions of the world there was an analogous development independent of the Middle East .

The transition to Neolithic agriculture (technical language Neolithic Revolution or Neolithization ) took place in suitable regions worldwide (see: Ecumenism ) differently depending on the prevailing climatic and ecological conditions. The sedentariness of the hunters, which was already carried out in the Proto-Neolithic , was secured against food shortages through plant cultivation . While the farmers formed ever larger, permanent village communities, the pastoral herdsmen's way of life initially remained nomadic or semi-nomadic . In particular, the arable farming the basis for a division of labor society created. Food production and storage led to greater independence from uncontrollable fluctuations in the population of wild animals and plants . This led to a rapidly increasing population growth in the neolithic regions.

The end of the Neolithic is defined in the Old World as the transition to the epochs of early metalworking . The Copper Age in Europe and the Middle East is still considered to be the last epoch of the Stone Age , while the subsequent Bronze Age is the Neolithic, depending on the region, between 3300 and 1800 BC. Chr. Replaced. In Africa, the Iron Age immediately followed the Neolithic . In Oceania and America , however, until the colonization by the Europeans, no or only rudimentary metalworking cultures developed.


Reconstruction of a Neolithic sickle made of wood with glued-in flint blades

The British anthropologist Sir John Lubbock announced in his 1865 published work Prehistoric Times to the Stone Age to the "period of beaten stone " ( Old Stone Age , Paleolithic ') as well as the "period of polished stone ," which he New Stone Age , Neolithic' called . Today, the beginning of the New Stone Age with the transition from the appropriating (is hunting , collecting industry , fisheries ) for producing economy ( field economy , horticulture , livestock industry accommodated) in combination. The associated cultural change brought with it some further features, which are now also known as the "Neolithic bundle" ( English Neolithic package ):

Temporal division of the Neolithic cultures of the Middle East and Europe

The spread of the Neolithic cultures from the southeastern Mediterranean to northeastern Europe.
  • 11,000 to 9500 BC BC ( Younger Dryas Period )
  • 9500 to 8000 BC BC ( pre-boreal to boreal )
  • 8000 to 6400 BC BC ( Boreal to Atlantic )
  • 6400 to 5000 BC Chr ( Atlantic )
  • 5000 to 3500 BC BC ( Atlantic to Subboreal )
  • Some hunter, gatherer and fisher cultures that existed in the Levant and on the central Euphrates were largely settled in the Epipalaeolithic due to the fertile climate and a correspondingly large food supply in the Alleröd Interstadial . From around 10,700 BC. With the younger Dryas period there was a sharp relapse of the cold, which led more and more to seasonal food shortages. In order not to have to give up their sedentary way of life again, more and more wild grain was used and the first, unregulated grain cultivation emerged. Since it is only possible to a limited extent to differentiate the harvest of wild grain without re-sowing from targeted cultivation, the Protoneolithic is not yet counted as part of the Neolithic. The living spaces consisted of round huts (Mallha / Eynan). Flint tools were not yet sharpened, but rather knocked into the desired shape.
    Important sites : Jericho and Mureybet IA
    Proof of domesticated cereal plants. During this time the first settlements consisted of round houses ( dry masonry ). Some of the settlements are in the bottom layer of later tells . The art of this time was mainly limited to idols , small stone sculptures that mainly depicted women, less often men or animals. Grain cultivation was well known at that time, but it was not yet the basis of nutrition. Cattle breeding cannot be proven osteologically at this early stage; gazelles continued to be hunted.
    Important sites: Mureybet IB, II, III, Tell es-Sultan (Jericho), Göbekli Tepe III
    The houses were rectangular or square. The domestication of animals has been established and it has spread to the west, with raft and dugout canoe also across the sea (Cyprus). Mostly female idols made of stone or clay with only suggested faces but clearly pronounced genitals now appeared. Tool production by the cut stone industry and the first unfired ceramics are known.
    Important sites: Nevali Cori , Göbekli Tepe II, ʿAin Ghazal
    • 6500 to 5500 BC BC : Ceramic Neolithic in the Middle East ( Pottery Neolithic , PN), from around 6200 BC Also in the eastern Mediterranean area
    Funerals were now carried out outside the settlement. In addition to growing grain, livestock were also known, and hunting was no longer the main source of meat. The manufacture of ceramics continued to spread. Archaeologically, the Ceramic Neolithic is divided into three phases:
    • monochrome phase
    • painted phase
    • classic phase
    The excavations at Jericho and Mureybet were carried out by Jean Cauvin , Kathleen Kenyon and John Garstang . The scientific system goes back to them.
    The lower stages Early Neolithic , Middle Neolithic , Young Neolithic , Late Neolithic , End Neolithic are defined differently in individual regions. In the southern Central Europe, the stages juveniles, late and Final Neolithic are as synonymous Chalcolithic period ( short also called Copper Age), respectively. In some regions (for example Moravia, Hungary, Italy) the Neolithic is defined more narrowly and the Copper Age is referred to as "Eneolithic" or "Chalcolithic".
    Phase of rural cultures: Metal did not yet play a major economic role.
    Start of metal processing in the melting process. Now the upper classes of society, long-distance trade and more fortified settlements emerged.
    • 4500/ 4000-2200 BC Chr .: Copper Age in Central Europe
    In southern Central Europe, a distinction is made between the Early Neolithic , Late Neolithic and End Neolithic .
    Earliest copper processing in Central Europe ( Jordansmühler culture , Lengyel culture ). Proof is own ore mining and smelting ( Mondsee Group ) only in the course of several centuries. Influence of western megalithic culture (e.g. Michelsberg culture , Nordic beaker culture ).
    Map of the European Neolithic Age,
    around 4500-4000 BC Chr.

    Neolithic Revolution

    In the Levant , some permanent settlements emerged before agriculture developed. The surroundings of these settlements provided the inhabitants with sufficient resources (fish, meat or plants) in the worst times. The cultivation and cultivation of grain was preceded by thousands of years of exploitation of the corresponding wilderness, on the Sea of ​​Galilee since 21,000 BC. Detectable ( Ohalo II ). This preliminary stage to productive agriculture is described by some authors as proto-Neolithic ; In terms of cultural history, however, it is still assigned to the Epipalaeolithic ( Middle Stone Age in the Middle East).

    Emergence of agriculture

    Agriculture began to emerge between 12,000 and 9500 BC. At the end of the last ice age , which was also the beginning of the current interglacial - the Holocene . For a long time, the exact causes were disputed, with two opposing hypotheses competing with each other.

    Gustav Stratil-Sauer first formulated the abundance hypothesis in 1952 . According to this, the cultivation of grain was developed by specialized hunters and gatherers who were already relatively sedentary and richly supplied with food as a "game with the possibilities" of stock keeping. These experiments would then have triggered an irreversible cultural change to the rural way of life. The zoologist Josef H. Reichholf - who still relies on the abundance hypothesis - claims that a deficiency caused by overhunting cannot be proven archaeologically. Rather, grain had been used as the basis of alcoholic beverages (especially beer ) for several millennia , even before it was actually used for the production of bread. This has its uniform origin with the Uralalta peoples of Central Asia.

    Most experts now accept the deficiency hypothesis , which sees the cause of the labor-intensive and time-consuming plant cultivation in an inevitable development during a drastic cooling of the climate: According to this, there were a few in the mild Alleröd Interstadial due to the year-round excellent food supply of wild animals and plants Groups of people have become sedentary. The proven overhunting of the gazelle populations was compensated by the use of wild grain. With the beginning of the Younger Dryas Cold Age, the food bases deteriorated dramatically, so that seasonal bottlenecks occurred more and more frequently. Since a return to the nomadic way of life was neither possible nor wanted after many centuries of largely sedentary life, people intensified the re-sowing of grain in order to produce their food supplies themselves.

    According to the prevailing opinion, according to the deficiency hypothesis, the transition to the rural way of life - in connection with the cultivation of suitable species - took place independently of one another at very different times in at least three, probably even in five or more places:

    middle East

    Finds from Ohalo II on the Sea of ​​Galilee in present-day Israel show that even 20,000 to 22,000 years ago hunters and gatherers used large quantities of the most varied of grasses - including wild wheat and wild barley - as food. These included very small-seeded grasses that were probably harvested with swinging baskets.

    The transition to agriculture was - at least in the Levant - less a “voluntary” development than a necessity to secure survival resulting from the change in the environment. The existing large animal fauna (especially the gazelle) was hunted down and diminished due to the cooling of the climate, which is why more wild grain was used in the region between the upper Euphrates and the Mediterranean. This is evidenced by finds of rubbing stones (hand mills) from this time. The oldest traces of possibly domesticated grain (in this case rye) were found in Tell Abu Hureyra on the Syrian Euphrates; they are estimated to be 13,000 years old. So far, the 11,600-year-old find of domesticated grain from the Iraq ed-Dubb settlement is considered the oldest well-dated evidence - and the beginning of the Neolithic.

    Fertile crescent around 7500 BC Chr.

    In the drier areas of Judea and Sinai , after the disappearance of the gazelles, people began to keep wild goats and wild sheep in flocks. Domestication of the animals can already be seen for Beidha around 11,000 BC. And from 8300 BC. BC prove that at this time Caprovids and Bovids but also Cervinals (Damtiere) reached Cyprus with the people. It must therefore have taken place much earlier. At first, sheep and goats were kept exclusively as suppliers of meat and hide; around 7500 BC The use of the secondary product milk, later also wool, can be archaeologically proven. Genetically (Peltonen study), the beginning of the breakdown of lactose intolerance , which was initially unrestricted in all people, indicates an early consumption of animal milk. This genetic progress in being able to digest milk sugar (lactose) (lactose tolerance), unlike progress in agriculture, was not made in the Middle East, but once (around 3500 BC) south of Denmark and later three times in East Africa ( Masai ) and is still generally only present in the native population of Northern Europe today. The use of cattle as draft animals in front of the plow finally enabled the transition from the Neolithic hacking to a higher agricultural culture . See also the history of transport in ancient times .


    In the lake area on the central reaches of the Yangtze , at around the same time as in the Levant, the wild rice that had only been collected so far was gradually cultivated. Further downstream, in an area with a warm, humid, subtropical climate, Chinese research sees the center of wet rice cultivation. In the significantly cooler and drier north of China, north and south of the Yellow River , millet, probably millet , was cultivated for the first time a few millennia later (probably between 5500 and 5300 BC) .

    Pigs, dogs and bankiva chickens were domesticated in China for meat production . It is unclear where the water buffalo was domesticated, but probably also in southern China around 4000 BC. Like the aurochs in the Middle East, it was also to gain importance as a draft animal.

    Central America

    Corn is one of the oldest crops in America

    The beginning of agriculture in Central America (unlike in the Levant and China) had technological reasons first. The inhabitants of the Oaxaca Valley in southern Mexico were already breeding around 8000 BC. Chr. Courgettes , therein to transport water from the rivers to their inhabited caves in the mountains. However, they continued to obtain their food as hunters and gatherers. It wasn't until 5100 BC. In the nearby Grijalva delta, the cultivation of a useful plant intended as food began: Teosinte , a wild form of maize . Almost a thousand years later, 4200 BC. BC, the cultivated Teosinte was also grown in the Oaxaca Valley. Over time, peppers , sunflowers and haricot beans were added.

    Since there was a lack of wild animals in the Central American fauna that had a biological disposition for domestication, no animals except dogs and turkeys were domesticated as meat suppliers or working animals.

    Spread of Agriculture

    Neolithic leftovers and dishes: grinding stones, charred bread, charred grains and apples, saucepan made of clay, drinking vessels made of deer antler and wood
    Spread of Neolithic agriculture in time

    Outside the regions of origin, agriculture and livestock were imported or brought with them by new settlers. For example, the wild forms of crops such as wheat and barley, which are widespread worldwide today, originally only occurred in Asia Minor and Syria , which is why they were domesticated and distributed there for the first time. As a traditional form of economy , agriculture is inferior to hunting and gathering in various respects: In order to generate the same calorie yield, a much greater amount of work is required; the dependence on climate and weather cannot be compensated; the localization prevents the exploitation of the natural dynamics and harvest and storage are subject to many risks. In this respect, external constraints and cultural decisions always played a role in the development of agriculture. If the farmers - once the new way of life had been established - hadn't impressed the hunters of other areas with all of their new cultural assets, the triumph of agriculture and livestock might not have come about.

    Middle East and Mediterranean

    The farmers of the Levant had settled around 8000 BC. . BC to about the area of southern Asia Minor (including Cyprus) Persian Gulf Coast spread. A concentric expansion of agriculture began, presumably through the migration of the farmers with the plants and animals they domesticated from the Levant, as well as the knowledge of their care, rearing and propagation in their “luggage”.

    Comparisons of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) show that the early Indian farmers were more closely related to the Levant farmers than to the hunters and gatherers in their neighborhood. The same applies to Europe, which the farmers reached for the first time about 9000 years ago over the still existing land bridge on the Bosporus . From south-eastern Europe they first spread along the Mediterranean coast and along the major rivers to eastern and central Europe. In this respect, agriculture also came to Europe through migration via two routes: via the Aegean Sea to the Balkans and along the northern Mediterranean coast to the Iberian Peninsula. The physical anthropologist Joachim Burger from the University of Mainz and his international working group reported in the journal “ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences ” of a genetic study that supports this thesis. They compared the genetic material of skeletons from the Aegean region with those of Neolithic farmers from Central Europe and found significant similarities.

    On Cyprus to domesticated cats and in Sumer and Egypt donkey and added the tiger nut and the sycamore fig to the crops added. The inhabitants of the Indus valley domesticated sesame , the Eastern Europeans on the other hand oats and the Western Europeans opium poppies . The dromedary was domesticated on the Arabian Peninsula and the horse in Kazakhstan .


    Africa, where the Neolithic developed much more slowly and differently, is a special case. Sometimes there are several millennia between the individual characteristics, for example between the domestication of cattle and the first cultivated plants. The process of Neolithization took several thousand years here, so that it is no longer valid as the “Neolithic” epoch boundary. For this reason, the term “Neolithic” is rather avoided in connection with Africa, in contrast to Central Europe, where the entire “bundle” appeared in its entirety around 7500 years ago and is therefore referred to as the Neolithic Revolution .

    In Africa there were already around 4900 BC Chr. Pastoralist communities, initially, and later with cattle largely nomadic living with sheep and goats. In Africa south of the Sahara, cultivated plants in the form of pearl millet and cowpea did not appear until the beginning of the second millennium BC . There are indications that the Neolithization of Africa often went its own way and was at least partially independent. For example, ceramics are older than in the Middle East.

    The extent to which African ancestors were involved in the domesticated animals is not entirely clear. According to molecular biological studies, indigenous domestication of at least some domestic animals cannot be ruled out. However, this does not apply to the goat that was imported from the Middle East. In southern Africa, the oldest sheep and goats cannot be dated before the turn of the millennium. This and mainly linguistic arguments are the basis for the assumption of a " Bantu migration". So far there is no archaeological evidence for this.

    In Ethiopia (possibly even before the arrival of the Near Eastern cultivated plants) teff and coffee were domesticated.

    East Asia and Polynesia

    With the also around 3000 BC As the Austronesian expansion began in BC, agriculture with the plants cultivated in southern China spread to Southeast Asia and the Pacific region. Since research considers it unlikely that there was another domestication center between India and southern China, China is consequently also the place of origin of Indian rice. In New Guinea, on the other hand, local hunters and gatherers had already started using bananas and sugar cane before the arrival of the southern Chinese crops . From northern China, where rice was from 3000 BC. Was grown, agriculture spread to Korea within a thousand years and eventually to Japan very late .


    Mesoamerican agriculture spread northwards, but where it found an obstacle in the arid regions of today's Texas . It is possible that the domestication of sunflowers, goosefoots , maygrass (Phalaris caroliniana) and Jerusalem artichoke in the eastern part of what is now the United States therefore took place unaffected. Genetic tests have shown that the pumpkin was domesticated in a total of six different regions. Numerous other plant species have also been cultivated several times in different regions. In the Peruvian Andes and the adjacent Amazon basin , manioc and potatoes were probably domesticated independently and only later supplemented with corn.

    As in Central America, there was a lack of suitable large mammals for domestication in South America. Only the llama was used to transport loads. Was used for meat supply Charque , dried, cut into strips llama meat , and there were guinea pigs maintained.


    In some regions of the world agriculture - and with it the Neolithic Age - never found its way (i.e. at least until the European colonial period ). On the one hand, there are desert and polar regions, which are fundamentally unsuitable for agricultural use. On the other hand, there are regions that either did not have any species suitable for domestication in their flora and fauna or that offered people a secure livelihood due to their natural abundance of food. Nevertheless, sedentary cultures had and still have a certain “attraction” to hunters and gatherers, which means that only very few “ indigenous peoples ” live from hunting and gathering alone.

    Technology and development

    Reconstruction of the stone age house in Schussenried ( Pfahlbaumuseum Unteruhldingen )

    Most tools made of wood, animal bones or flint were very similar to those from the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic. New were hatchets and axes that were sharpened by sawing and grinding and then drilled through to make a shaft. The appearance of fired clay pots was also new. In most regions these vessels, which are mostly used for storage, appeared with or immediately after the development of arable farming, but in Japan they occurred well before that.

    With the beginning of sedentarism, house construction developed further. In the area of ​​the Alps, huts were built on meter-high supports ( pile dwellings ) on the shores of the lakes - a construction method that was adapted to the periodic flooding of the lake shores. High fences (palisades) were built around the villages to protect them from animals or enemies. This was also the way of building in the lake area of ​​the Yangtze River and its delta.

    In Çatalhöyük , mostly rectangular houses were built from adobe bricks and a wooden framework. For a sedentary culture, property and its defense were of great importance; Oasis cities like Jericho were surrounded by meter-high walls.

    Although the supply situation for the farmers was more uncertain than that of the hunter-gatherers, there was an increase in population everywhere. This is associated less with diet and more with the sedentary lifestyle. For people who lead a very mobile life, small children are more of a hindrance. In contrast, milk and cereals can shorten the breastfeeding period.

    In the farming cultures, parts of the group specialized in certain activities. An intellectual and political leadership class formed (priests, tribal chiefs, princes).


    During the Neolithic Age, metalworking was also developed ( archaeometallurgy ). However, it was limited to native (elemental) metals such as gold, silver and copper. The oldest copper finds come from Asia Minor and Iran and are over 9,000 years old. Due to the metalworking, the last section of the Neolithic is regionally known as the Copper Age .

    Archaeological cultures

    Within the Neolithic (more clearly than in the Paleolithic) "typical" cultures can be identified archaeologically, each of which replaced one another after several hundred years or entered a new phase. The archaeological finds and find situations show similarities within temporally and regionally determinable regions and indicate the boundaries of the uniform cultural areas.

    While the people of the Levant were already farming 13,000 years ago according to the latest findings , Central Europe catches up around 5,000 ( La Hoguette culture or linear ceramic ) up to 9,000 years later. Along the Mediterranean coasts , southern Europe and south-western Europe became Neolithic from the culture with imprint ceramics (technical language: Impresso in Italian , Cardial in French ). The funnel beaker culture reached southern Sweden and the Skagerrak.

    Important archaeological sites of the middle and final phase of the Neolithic ( 6500 to 4800 years ago ) and successors to the temples on Göbekli Tepe (Anatolia 11,000 years ago) are the megalithic structures and menhirs in Carnac (France), in Skara Brae (Scotland), the Temples in Malta and Newgrange and Knowth in Ireland. In the 8th millennium BC Chr. Are in the historic Khuzistan the references Chogha Mish and Chogha Bonut dated.

    The most important skeleton find from the final phase of the Neolithic in Europe is the "Man from Tisenjoch" known as Ötzi , who lived over 5000 years ago. His body was preserved as a freeze-dried mummy in the ice of the Similaun glacier . He had typical Neolithic tools such as a bow and arrow and was already carrying a copper ax.


    The Neolithic finds on the Cycladic island of Saliagos have no direct lines of tradition . Neither forerunners (e.g. in Anatolia) nor direct successors in the Bronze Age Cycladic culture can be identified.

    Danube Region ( Danubian Region ), Southeast Europe

    In the central Danube region, the Neolithic began with the Starčevo culture , in Greece with the Sesklo culture. The Middle Neolithic also shaped the Alföld linear ceramics and the Bükker culture in northern Hungary and Slovakia. The end of the Neolithic was determined in Serbia and in the Banat by the Vinča culture , in Hungary by the Tisza culture . At the transition to the Middle Neolithic, the Tell settlements in the Balkans and the Danubian area break off.

    Central Europe

    Here the Neolithic spread from 5600/5500 BC. From the Danube region with the well-researched ceramic band culture northwards to the loess border . It eventually reached from Moldova to the Paris Basin. At the same time, Mesolithic hunter-gatherers are likely to have lingered in enclaves, but especially on the periphery. The ribbon ceramics followed in the western area of ​​distribution (around today's Germany) the Rössen culture , in the east the stitch ribbon ceramics , the Oberlauterbach group and the Münchshöfen culture .

    See also: Early Neolithic , Middle Neolithic , Late Neolithic , Late Neolithic , Neolithic period

    Northern Central Europe and Northern Europe

    Chronology of the Neolithic in northern Central Europe and Scandinavia according to Carl Johan Becker

    In the north, the Neolithic did not spread until between 4200 and 4000 BC. With the funnel beaker culture . In its final phase it is overlaid by the spherical amphora culture in the east . It follows from 2800 BC. BC in the west the bell beaker culture , in the east the cord ceramic culture . With them the Neolithic ends in this area. The funnel beaker culture developed stages which were defined by the Dane C. J. Becker, but which have since been scientifically differentiated (see graphic).


    Central America

    South America


    In Africa, archaeological exploration of the Neolithic is still in its infancy. As a result, only a few complexes described in detail are known to date that deserve the name archaeological culture; mostly the knowledge is limited to larger regions. The following find complexes correspond most closely to the criteria of the European Neolithic, but are more recent:


    In neolithic Eurasia, the emmer was one of the oldest cultivated cereals. It had its origins in the Middle East, where it had been grown for at least 10,000 years . The peas and lentils followed . Domestication of domestic goats began at least 8,000 to 9,000 years ago , and possibly even earlier, making them one of the oldest economically used domestic animals. Later the olive tree and the wine and other animals and plants were added.

    This gradual change in the human way of life from the hunter-gatherer cultures to agriculture and cattle breeding did not result in a consistently more advantageous way of life. The term social metabolism describes an organizational form of material and energetic exchange between human communities and their environment , whereby from the perspective of the term, the focus is not on the social organizational forms, but on the metabolism. The hunter-gatherer cultures were characterized by an uncontrolled use of solar energy and those of the agricultural societies were characterized by a controlled use of solar energy. If one wants to estimate the magnitudes of the social metabolism, this is easier for the energy flows than it is possible for the material flow. The reference value for the energy flow is the physiological minimum of the basal metabolic rate ; energetically, 10 megajoules in 24 hours (per day) can be estimated, which would correspond to 3.5 gigajoules per year. In terms of material, including water consumption, 3 kg are assumed, i.e. around 1000 kg per year.

    Energy in gigajoules per year Material in tons per year
    basal metabolism 3.5 1-2
    Hunters and collectors 10–20 (factor 3–5) 2-3
    Agrarian societies 60–80 (factor 20) 4-5

    Wherever Neolithic ways of life were founded, there was a direct dependency on the weather and thus on weather observation; sedentariness became dependent in a specific way on the rhythm of the seasons . The position of the sun was given a high priority. The fixed points of the sun's orbit that characterize the seasons in the temperate zones, such as the longest night ( beginning of winter ) or the longest day of the year ( beginning of summer ) as well as the day and night equations at the beginning of spring and autumn, i.e. the rising or falling Movement of the daily sun path can best be determined in relation to a virtual line on the horizon .

    In order to establish arable farming, which could gradually take an important part in the food supply of a Neolithic group, certain prerequisites had to be created or existed. First of all, a prepared cultivated soil was required , then adequate irrigation or moisture penetration of the soil had to be guaranteed over the vegetation period . The floor had to, with the appropriate experience processed are, the Neolithic groups had the time of sowing to the changing, year seasonal rhythm donors recognize. The development of early calendar systems is closely related to this . They are generally based on the observation of natural, mostly astronomical events (position of the sun, moon phases , rise or position of certain stars, etc.). With the occurrence of a certain defined celestial event (e.g. the new moon or the equinox in central European spring ) a new cycle is initiated. In crops such as the ceramic band, which are involved in agriculture, it is necessary to record the seasons on a calendar . Therefore, parallel to a transition from a Mesolithic to a Neolithic society or from a hunter-gatherer society to a sedentary way of life, a transition from the lunar calendar to the solar calendar is assumed (see the ceramics stitches and the circular moat by Goseck ).

    Agriculture required a high level of knowledge, observation and experience, which developed in dealing with the arable land in a special geographical area, with the corresponding climatic and prevailing weather conditions, such as the rainwater situation, the degree of forest cover , the nature of the soil and then for cultures without writing usual, had to be told further. In addition, economic aspects had to be taken into account that bridged the time of the missing fruiting period. The stockpiling was necessary in order to make the one the ripened crops for consumption durable, on the other hand seed to have for next season stock. For this purpose, preservation methods were i. w. S. necessary for the stored plant seeds to protect them from pests .

    For arable farming in particular, it was important to be able to determine the times for sowing and harvesting independently of the specific weather conditions. While nomadic ethnic groups got along very well with a lunar calendar , it is probably older than the solar calendar because it was based on a celestial phenomenon that can be safely and easily observed, namely the phases of the moon . A lunar calendar divides the year into periods that correspond to the same moon phases, the same moon phase occurs again after an average of 29.5 days. In contrast, the solar phases, for example the equinoxes or the solstices , are much more difficult to determine. In a free lunar calendar, the seasons move continuously through the year. This was mostly not a problem for hunter-gatherer societies, but sedentary ethnic groups who had to plan their planting and harvest times had difficulties with such a calendar form. This eventually led to the development of solar calendars.

    Emmer ( Triticum dicoccum ) and einkorn ( Triticum monococcum ) predominated during the Neolithic period . The cereal types listed can be sown as winter cereals in autumn or as summer cereals in spring . The harvest was then staggered in summer. Depending on the type of grain husk , a distinction is made between spelled (emmer, einkorn, spelled barley, spelled) and naked grain (naked wheat). In the case of husked grain, the husks surrounding the grain are more or less firmly fused with it. In the case of naked grain, on the other hand, they lie loosely and fall off during threshing . The advantage of the husked grain is that it can withstand primitive storage better, the disadvantage is that the grains have to be peeled before grinding; but for this they must be completely dry.

    After initially strong dynamism of the developing Neolithic settlements, then around 3000 BC. Chr. A relatively stable global pattern of agrarian societies out. From the description of the energy and material flows in the model of social metabolism, the basics for an increased population density of Neolithic settlements and cultures can be read - due to the improved food situation - but not their critical developments. The spectrum of diseases changed, for example tuberculosis , brucellosis ( zoonoses, etc.) as well as specific changes in the musculoskeletal system caused by one-sided and repetitive physical activities. In addition, there were “urban problems” such as hygiene , land and property distribution and security, stock management, property security, water supply ( wells ), etc.

    The social metabolism of hunter-gatherer cultures was based on the fact that they switched to existing solar energy flows without wanting to modify or even control them. Their basic strategy resulted in a number of patterns that characterized these cultures. Most of these human communities are characterized as egalitarian-acephalous groups. A result of their mobile way of life, because the compulsion to mobility did not bring any evolutionary advantage for the formation of complex social structures or the production of complex artifacts.

    In terms of social metabolism, animal husbandry and harvesting led to an increase in energy and material flows, which allowed the special strategies of the controlled use of solar energy flows to evolve. The human collective mainly used biological energy converters (arable crops such as emmer and animals such as goats) that were genetically modified over the course of generations for the respective purposes and whose habitats were actively redesigned. Furthermore, this strategy was transferred to other additional suitable plant and animal species. However, these strategies also forced changes in the social structure of human cultures. From the small and largely egalitarian - acephalous groups of hunter-gatherer societies were tribal communities and chiefdoms increasing number greater human communities with complex organizational structures.

    The settling down that began in Eurasia in the areas of the fertile crescent due to the external conditions brought successive changes in the social structure of human communities. Although the total amount of food available increased ( physiological calorific value ), the annual food production was exposed to strong seasonal fluctuations. As a result, population fluctuations and mortality rates can be considerable. At the same time, however, due to the sedentary way of life (reduced mobility and shortened breastfeeding time due to a changed diet), the population of human settlements increased. Higher populations enabled a horizontal differentiation of the young communities. The growing horizontal differentiation is directly linked to the population figures, because specialization requires a certain number of people involved. Greater specialization increased the productivity of the Neolithic cultures, which in turn improved their supply, increased social metabolism, the flow of materials and energy, and ultimately the strategies of the controlled use of solar energy flows. As a result, the population could in principle continue to grow, provided that the early modern cultures were affected by greater instability. The process of horizontal differentiation was accompanied by a process of vertical differentiation, the formation of a ruling elite, such as the chiefs or priestly caste. Changes in the organization of the division of labor, rule, settlement construction and the regulation of property did not remain without effects on spiritual and religious questions.

    Humberto Maturana defined culture as a network of manners that determine the feeling-language behavior and generate a language consensus that is passed on over the generations. The agro-technological knowledge, but also that of the administrative and spiritual order, was passed on from one generation to the next. But the exchange between the individual human settlements also found its way through this verbal network of manners. With the development of plant cultivation and animal breeding, the idea of ​​fertility became even more important in human imagination. Analogous to sowing-ripening-harvesting , the sequence birth-life-death became significant in the world of faith. The position of women as an essential force in early agriculture rose ( matristic cultures ), analogous to the role of female fertility deities in religion. As in previous Stone Age religions , forces have been suggested in the surrounding wildlife. Human, animal or mixed chimeras became objects of worship.

    The diverse and varied shaping and ornamentation of pottery ( ceramics ) allows archaeologists to assign individual vessels (and thus sites) to a specific cultural group. As is often the only reliable indication of a stage of culture in the form of ornamentation or their ceramic is used as a leading form typochronologische frequently to refer to the culture itself, for example Beaker culture , Beaker culture , Pottery culture , Pitted Ware Culture or cord ceramic .

    See also

    Portal: Prehistory and Protohistory  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the subject of Prehistory and Protohistory



    • Hans-Jürgen Beier (ed.): Studies on settlement in the early Neolithic. Contributions to the meeting of the Neolithic group, held in Kempten / Allgäu 1995 In: Contributions to the prehistory and early history of Central Europe. Volume 10 Beier & Beran, Weißbach 1996.
    • MediaCultura (ed.): The oldest monuments of mankind. 12,000 years ago in Anatolia. Theiss, Stuttgart 2007, ISBN 3-8062-2090-5 (DVD-ROM).
    • Steven Mithen: After the Ice. A Global Human History, 20,000-5000 BC. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London 2003, ISBN 0-297-64318-5 .
    • Josef H. Reichholf : Why people settled down. 2nd Edition. S. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2008, ISBN 978-3-10-062943-2 .
    • Daniel Zohary, Maria Hopf: Domestication of Plants in the Old World. The Origin and Spread of Cultivated Plants in West Asia, Europe and the Nile Valley. 3. Edition. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2000, ISBN 0-19-850357-1 .


    Web links

    Commons : Neolithic  album with pictures, videos and audio files
    Wiktionary: Neolithic  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


    1. Hypothetically , the development of bread can be reconstructed using a cereal porridge. If the early cereal food was a porridge , it turns into a cake when it is dried or applied on a hot stone or in the ashes of a fire. If you give such a cereal porridge or dough the opportunity to ferment in a warm place, the structure of the dough loosens, which then, baked in a closed room under fire, creates bread.

    Individual evidence

    1. ^ David W. Anthony (2007): The horse, the wheel, and language. ISBN 978-0-691-05887-0 , p. 126.
    2. ^ A b Hermann Parzinger : The children of Prometheus. A history of mankind before the invention of writing. CH Beck Verlag, Munich 2015, ISBN 978-3-406-66657-5 , pp. 113–122: "1 Specialized Levant hunters after the end of the Ice Age", "2 First steps to rural life in the Fertile Crescent", " The older pre-ceramic period A (PPN A) ”; P. 232–235: "3 The Beginnings of Peasant Life in Central Europe".
    3. Nadja Podbregar: Great Britain: Migrants as early as the Neolithic. Article in on April 16, 2019, online version , accessed on December 6, 2019.
    4. ^ John Lubbock: Prehistoric Times, as Illustrated by Ancient Remains and the Manners and Customs of Modern Savages. Williams and Norgate, London 1865 (German edition: The prehistoric times explained by the remains of antiquity and the manners and customs of today's savages. Costenoble, Jena 1874, 2 volumes).
    5. a b c d Marion Benz: The Neolithization in the Middle East . Ex oriente, second, hardly changed edition, Berlin 2008. ISBN 3-9804241-6-2 . pdf version , pp. 18, 32–43, 90.
    6. In: Josef H. Reichholf: Why people settled down. 2nd Edition. S. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2008, ISBN 978-3-10-062943-2 .
    7. Florian Stark: The Balkan route brought civilization to Europe. In: Accessed December 1, 2019 .
    8. a b c Marion Benz: The Neolithization in the Middle East . Ex oriente, second, hardly changed edition, Berlin 2008. ISBN 3-9804241-6-2 . pdf version , pp. 103-148.
    9. Simone Riehl: The long way to agriculture. Spectrum of Science, April 2014, pp. 64–68.
    10. Yuval Noah Harari : A Brief History of Humanity. DVA, Munich 2013, ISBN 978-3-421-04595-9 , p. 101 f.
    11. ^ Mark Q. Sutton; EN Anderson: Introduction to Cultural Ecology. Rowman & Littlefield Pub., Lanham / New York / Toronto / Plymouth, UK 2010, ISBN 978-0-7591-1248-3 , pp. 84 f. ( (PDF; 2.1 MB) ( Memento from December 13, 2014 in the Internet Archive ))
    12. ^ Wolfram Siemann; Nils Freytag: Environmental History: Topics and Perspectives. CH Beck, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-406-49438-2 , p. 42.
    13. ^ IG Simmons: Changing the face of the earth. Blackwell, Oxford 1989, ISBN 0-631-14049-2 , p. 197.
    14. Ina Mahlstedt: The religious world of the Neolithic. WBG, Darmstadt 20004, ISBN 978-3-534-23595-7 , pp. 42-46.
    15. Burkard stone back: Solstices and moon turns. Astronomical basics of the turning of the sun and moon on the horizon and their meaning in archaeoastronomy. Conference of the Society for Archaeoastronomy from 19. – 12. March 2011 in Osnabrück ( PDF, 4.17 MB, 61 pages on
    16. Dieter Kaufmann: On the function of linear ceramic earthworks. In: Karl Schmotz (Hrsg.): Lectures of the 15th Lower Bavarian Archaeological Day. Marie Leidorf, Deggendorf 1997, pp. 41-87.
    17. Angelina Münster, Corina Knipper, Vicky M. Oelze, Nicole Nicklisch, Marcus Stecher, Björn Schlenker, Robert Ganslmeier, Matthias Fragata, Susanne Friederich, Veit Dresely, Vera Hubensack, Guido Brandt, Hans-Jürgen Döhle, Kurt W. Alt et al .: 4000 years of human dietary evolution in central Germany, from the first farmers to the first elites. March 27, 2018 PDF; 12 kB, 32 pages on PLOS one.
    18. Jürgen Franssen: From hunter to farmer Economic forms in Neolithic Anatolia. Publishing company? Place? Date? ( online at
    19. ^ Rolf Peter Sieferle: Lessons from the past. Expertise for the WBGU main report "World in Transition: Social Contract for a Great Transformation" Berlin 2010, online ( Memento from October 7, 2013 in the Internet Archive ).
    20. Hans-Peter Uerpmann: From hunters to arable farmers - The Neolithic revolution of human subsistence. Communications of the Society for Prehistory - 16 (2007), pp. 55-74 ( Memento from September 19, 2011 in the Internet Archive ).
    21. Stephen Shennan ; Sean S. Downey; Adrian Timpson; Kevan Edinborough; Sue Colledge; Tim Kerig; Katie Manning; Mark G. Thomas: Regional population collapse followed initial agriculture booms in mid-Holocene Europe. Nature Communications (2013) 4: 2486 .
    22. See action theory
    23. Humberto R. Maturana; Gerda Werden-Zöller: love and play. The forgotten basics of being human. Matristic and patriarchal ways of life. Auer-Verlag, 1993, ISBN 3-927809-18-7 , p. 24.
    24. ^ Lecture by Holger Kuße. Institute for Slavic Studies / Slavic History and Linguistics, TU Dresden SS 2008 : Cultural Studies Linguistics I. Introduction: Culture - Linguistics - Cultural Studies Linguistics. Pp. 4–33, online ( memento of April 18, 2013 in the Internet Archive ).
    25. Humberto R. Maturana; Gerda Werden-Zöller: love and play. The forgotten basics of being human. Matristic and patriarchal ways of life. Auer-Verlag, 1993, ISBN 3-927809-18-7 , p. 27.