The neolithic revolution is the first appearance of productive (productive) economic practices ( agriculture or plant cultivation and cattle breeding or animal production ), stockpiling and sedentarism in the history of mankind . In some areas, this replaced the pure hunter-gatherer way of life , and the Neolithic era began here . The name was coined by Vere Gordon Childe from the 1930s .
Change of epoch
Childe defined the Neolithic through the advent of agriculture and livestock. In contrast, John Lubbock had associated the difference between the Old and Neolithic with the use of polished stone tools. Researchers discuss both the formation (Neolithic Revolution) and the spread ( Neolithization ) of Neolithic cultural groups. As far as we know, arable farming developed independently of one another several times around the world : The fertile crescent of the Middle East, China and Mexico are secured . From these centers it was spread through migration or imitation.
Concept and concept discussion
The Neolithic Revolution marked according to many scientists one of the major upheavals in human history.
On the one hand, there is the transition from the “nomadic way of life and predominantly occupation economy ” of the hunters, gatherers and fishermen to the sedentary life as a farmer . The transition to down-to-earth or herd-accompanying work with at least a semi-sedentary way of life took place in the Middle East in the Epipalaeolithic of the Natufian culture. According to the traditional view, agriculture began there ( Pre-Ceramic Neolithic A ), while today the southern edge of the Zāgros Mountains is favored. This process began well before the 10th millennium BC. Chr. After the disappearance of gazelles stocks in the Levante - as a result of climate change - sheep, goats and cattle were domesticated . In 2009, researchers discovered buildings at Bab edh-Dhra in Jordan that are 11,000 years old and are considered to be granaries.
On the other hand, it is about the transition from forced adaptation to the environment to a process dynamized by momentous inventions with rapidly increasing productivity. The beginnings of this development - with the gathering of wild grain species - took place in the Levant, beginning around 14,000 to 20,000 years ago.
Already Gabriel de Mortillet in 1897 in connection with the Neolithic period of the first revolution of humanity spoken. The term “Neolithic Revolution” was introduced in 1936 by the archaeologist Vere Gordon Childe based on the expression “ industrial revolution ”. Similar to the epochal change from pre-industrial to industrial times, the Neolithization signifies a fundamental turning point in the history of mankind, which can be recognized by several features. He saw the “urban revolution” as the next stage of development.
Childe, who used archaeological and ethnological sources, placed the stock-keeping economy of the Neolithic, which he attributed to the climate change at the time, as a determining factor. In his opinion, the changes were enforced in a limited area with appropriate resources (oasis theory). He assumes that the herbivores living here in the wild - which would have impaired orderly arable farming - were migrated or domesticated in the postglacial dry phase, but otherwise eradicated. In Germany, Childes' theses were made known primarily by Günter Smolla in his book Neolithic Cultural Appearances.
Today the view dominates that between the various "inventions" such as sedentary life, ceramics, first animal and plant breeding there may have been around 5000 years, and that this "revolution" lacks the character of rapidity of social change , which is why research is now more likely to do so emphasizes evolutionary change and uses the word revolution less often, whereby it should be noted that this is only 5000 years compared to a very long period of the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic of at least 2.5 million years (0.2%).
The term is criticized by archaeologists today:
“From today's perspective, the term 'Neolithic Revolution' coined by Gordon Childe shortens the evolutionary processes in an impermissible way. The change in the economic system in the Middle East , in China , North Africa or later in Central and South America was a process that took place over several millennia and whose irreversibility was only established late. "
Based on the term "Neolithic Revolution", other changes were also referred to as revolution, such as Kent Flannery's Broad spectrum revolution , the symbol revolution at the transition to the Upper Paleolithic and Andrew Sherratt's secondary products revolution .
In addition to new ways of farming, other innovations can be noted that had a great influence on the way of life: cutting stone tools , and later ceramic production . Since Childe, however, the Neolithic has been mainly defined by the economic method, no longer, as with John Lubbock , by finely slammed or polished stone tools. Characteristic for the first 20 millennia up to approx. 1000 BC. Chr. Is the regular increase in innovations.
Permanent sedentariness - which according to today's knowledge is seen as a prerequisite and not as a consequence of agriculture - as well as the domestication of plants and animals were decisive for the Neolithic forms of culture . The change from the appropriating way of life of the gatherers and hunters to the productive economy of farmers and shepherds went hand in hand with significant social and cultural changes.
Remnants of bread made from wild grain and roots, around 14,000 years old, were found in 2008 in fireplaces of the Natufien in northeastern Jordan. About 11,500 years ago, grain cultivation prevailed in south-eastern Turkey and northern Syria, and later throughout the Levant . At the same time, the first temples Jerf el Ahmar , Göbekli Tepe and, as a result, larger settlements that were not primarily active in agriculture were built .
If we put the beginning of human history with the appearance of Homo sapiens in East Africa at least 150,000 years ago, most recent humans lived for most of their history on the game they captured, the fish they caught, as well as small animals and wild plants that he collected. He moved his entire life regionally - following the migration of the herds - from one camp site to another. Community there was for him in the form of his group . Each of the members was involved in the procurement of food, so that hardly any specialization developed. Research disagrees as to the extent to which stone processing, braiding and boat building led to the development of specialist knowledge. There have probably been individuals / families who specialized in particular skills and passed on their experiences, but it is excluded that they would feed on these skills.
The last ice ages ( Würme ice age ) survived the people as hunters and gatherers. Nature offered sufficient animal and some vegetable resources. After the last ice age, large mammals migrated to large parts of the world. Species like the mammoth became extinct, possibly due to a combination of hunting and climate change.
In the transition from the pre-ceramic to the ceramic Neolithic (8000–5500 BC), in which a targeted use of fired ceramics became possible (although this was also in isolated use in previous times), there were a number of other technical and instrumental elements and economic innovations: In addition to agriculture and cattle breeding, the mentioned ceramic production, improved tool and work equipment production, sedentariness, later building houses and wells as well as digging.
Everywhere where Neolithic ways of life were established, there was a direct dependence on the weather. Sedentariness became dependent in a specific way on the rhythm of the seasons, so that close observation of the weather became necessary. The position of the sun was given a high priority: The fixed points of the sun's path that characterize the season 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 the calendar Autumn, i.e. the rising or falling movement of the daily path of the sun - can best be determined in relation to a virtual line on the horizon (see calendar structures ).
So that agriculture could establish itself - 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 during the vegetation period . Since the soil had to be worked properly, knowing the time of sowing in the changing, seasonal rhythms was of great importance. 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 certain defined sky event (. As of such new moon or the day and night are equally long in the Central European Spring ), a new cycle is initiated. The calendar recording of the seasons is essential for arable farmers. 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 ditch by Goseck ).
Agriculture required a high level of knowledge, observation and experience, which developed in dealing with the arable land and the needs of the crops in a special geographical area (climatic and weather conditions (such as the rainwater situation), the degree of forest cover, the nature of the soil) and then - as is usual for non-literate cultures - had to be passed on orally over generations. In addition, economic aspects had to be taken into account, such as the time of the missing fruiting period could be bridged. The stockpiling was required to make the one that ripened crops preserved for consumption, and to have available for other seeds for the next season. For this purpose, preservation methods (mainly for the stored plant seeds) were necessary to protect them from pests.
While nomadic, hunting and gathering ethnic groups got along very well with the probably older lunar calendar, the farmers needed a solar calendar. The lunar calendar is based on a celestial phenomenon that can be safely and easily observed - the phases of the moon . The year is divided 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 phases of the sun - for example the equinoxes (equinoxes) or the solstices (solstices) - are much more difficult to determine. In a free lunar calendar, the seasons move continuously through the year.
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.
It is believed that the Neolithic Revolution put the concept of property at the center of society. The first emergence of real estate in the Neolithic is considered likely. Carel van Schaik and Kai Michel write for example:
“Agriculture required that certain things no longer belong to everyone. How can you harvest something if everyone has something to eat beforehand? […] Establishing the new property concept […] required an enormous intellectual effort, the idea that there should now be things that belonged to individuals in a community. […] With settling down one of the fundamental laws of human coexistence was undermined, one that had been an everyday commandment for half an eternity: Food must be shared! [...] Here an everyday, vital act - collecting fruit - is not only prohibited; it is criminalized. [...] "
Theories and criticism
There are various theories about what factors led to the so-called Neolithic Revolution and the change in the way of life in the Neolithic. At the end of the 19th century, scientists assumed that agriculture had brought decisive advantages for survival ( deficiency hypothesis ). In the middle of the 20th century, various varieties of the abundance hypothesis became popular: 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 stockpiling. These experiments would then have triggered an irreversible cultural change to the rural way of life.
As most professionals assume today, the process was actually more complicated.
Without the use of special knowledge, long-term planning and technological aids, extractive management is superior to the manufacturing economy, since the latter requires a much greater amount of work to achieve the same calorie yield; the dependence on climate and weather cannot be compensated; The local ties prevent the exploitation of the natural dynamics and harvest and storage are subject to many risks. The American anthropologist Marshall Sahlins therefore called the historical hunter cultures the "original affluent society". This fact begs the question, why have people still chosen the more strenuous lifestyle?
- Oasis theory : In the 1930s, Childe formulated the "oasis hypothesis". After that, a period of extreme drought would have forced the people in Southwest Asia at the end of the last Ice Age to concentrate on a few remaining oases and river valleys, so that wandering over larger areas would not have made sense. The result was agriculture and the domestication of animals. This thesis is now considered refuted. In the 1940s Robert John Braidwood first formulated the hypothesis that sedentariness was an adaptation to changed environmental conditions, with the causes differing in different regions. The transition was gradual. According to Barbara Bender , the changes were essentially triggered by social processes and the formation of complex social structures before the Neolithic.
- Climate change : Due to archaeological and archaeozoological finds in the Middle East, it is now assumed by the majority that some cultures of the Levant became largely sedentary in the mild Alleröd Interstadial , as large stocks of gazelle herds and wild grain locations provided sufficient food all year round and permanently. The new way of life established itself culturally, but after a few generations it led to the overhunting of game populations in the vicinity of the settlements. This prompted people to use more wild grain - and for the first time artificially multiply it by re-sowing. With the beginning of the younger Dryas glaciation around 9600 BC. However, the food bases deteriorated dramatically, so that seasonal bottlenecks occurred more and more frequently. Since a return to the nomadic way of life after many centuries of largely sedentary life was neither possible nor wanted for some groups, the people were now forced to produce their food mainly themselves.
- Because it offered an unprecedented security of nutrition, grain was supposedly very soon grown outside of its natural range. According to the researchers, the population in the Levant was able to meet their meat needs by hunting gazelles for 1500 to 2000 years. Evidence for this are the animal bone analyzes in the settlements as well as the " desert dragons " called trapping facilities in which herds were rounded up and slaughtered. The gazelle populations only collapsed around 10,000 years ago, and sheep, goats, cattle and pigs were domesticated as compensation . This timeframe is incorrect insofar as the deserted Cyprus no later than 8300 BC. Was settled with domesticated large mammals.
- Migration : What had developed step by step in certain regions was, according to some scholars, introduced much more quickly in others through immigration. One example is the Neolithization in Central Europe around 5500 BC. In southern Africa, according to many researchers, the stage of Neolithic agriculture was skipped entirely. Here Iron Age farmers met a culture of gatherers and hunters.
- Adaptation : In the Neolithic, agriculture developed in many climatically more favorable regions with abundant resources as an alternative way of life, while people in extremely cold, hot or dry areas switched to livestock and only where this was not possible, continued as hunters and gatherers lived. The fact that agriculture and sedentarism represented an adaptation to the environmental conditions is supported, among other things, by scientific findings on the so-called Vrå culture in eastern Sweden, which existed there around 4000 BC. BC as a peasant society emerged. When the climate changed 1000 years later ( subboreal period) and there were again more fish and seals in the Baltic Sea , they gave up agriculture and returned to the way of life as hunters and fishermen. This is considered to be evidence that human populations (unlike animal populations) did not evade climate change, but - staying locally - came to new ways of life.
- Revolution : Childes' interpretations are criticized by various archaeologists because, for example, the term "revolution" suggests a brief period of upheaval. In fact, however, these are long-term developments and transitional phases in human history that took place at different times in different places.
Findings from population genetics have recently made it possible to make more concrete statements about the spread of agriculture and livestock through migratory movements, because the DNA of skeletons can also be determined. For this reason, in 2000, a team of researchers analyzed the DNA of 1,000 men from Europe and the Middle East; the decisive common or differentiating characteristics that allow conclusions about common ancestors and their dating are called genetic markers . The result: around 20% of Europe's Y chromosomes come from Neolithic immigrants from the Middle East . The population geneticist Spencer Wells thinks it is likely that these brought agriculture to Europe and the Mediterranean region, so that it was not an independent development. "In a conceivable scenario, agriculture would have spread around the Mediterranean because the plants of the Neolithic immigrants from the Middle East preferred the climate there (...) Only later did the Paleolithic Europeans in the interior of the country take over agriculture and spread the culture everywhere ( ...) of the Neolithic. "
Independently of the Middle East, agriculture appears to have developed and expanded in East Asia. According to excavations, northern China was found to be much later than in the Levant, around 7000 BC. Millet was first grown on a large scale in BC , and rice was also grown in central China . 2000 years later there was also rice cultivation in southern China, around 3500 BC. Then on Taiwan , around 2000 BC. BC on Borneo and Sumatra , 500 years later on other islands in Indonesia . The genetic research showed that the new culture was spread through migratory movements from China.
Based on archaeological excavation finds in Mesopotamia and Anatolia, researchers at the German Archaeological Institute in Berlin assume that religious cults were the main reason for the emergence of sedentarism in the Neolithic. According to current knowledge, the structures of Göbekli Tepe were temples that were built around 11,600 years ago and thus at the beginning of agriculture. The construction time must have been several centuries. The British researcher Ian Hodder suspects social and religious factors of the mythical-theistic ideas as the main cause of the Neolithic revolution on the basis of findings from the Çatalhöyük site in Anatolia.
Consequences of development
Usually, the change in the economy and way of life at the beginning of the Neolithic era is seen as a great step forward, as agricultural production gradually made people independent of the fluctuations in the natural supply of food that was gathered and hunted. The results of paleoanthropology show that the population increased sharply after the introduction of arable farming; hunting and gathering alone would probably not have been sufficient to supply them. However, cultivating the fields also meant concentrating on little food and heavily dependent on the harvest, which in turn was influenced by the weather. The sedentariness of the arable farmers prevented quick changes of location and favored famine.
Skeletal finds from the Neolithic show that people's body size decreased significantly in this phase, which allows conclusions to be drawn about their nutritional status. Life expectancy decreased significantly compared to the Paleolithic. It has been proven that significantly more people fell ill than before, mainly from infections. Most are likely to have arisen from frequent and close contact with cattle after the introduction of cattle breeding ; The pathogens multiply within larger populations and do not die out as in small groups. Measles is said to have its origin in rinderpest . Another consequence of the Neolithic Revolution was the tendency towards centralized decision-making structures, specialized trades and chaînes opératoires (mental processes and technical hand movements to meet a need) and the associated emergence of social classes.
The legal effects of the Neolithic Revolution are predominantly associated with the emergence of segmentary societies . A change in the kinship structures , the concept of property and the conflict resolution mechanisms are emphasized . It should be noted that this is pre-state law.
Segmentary societies are mostly based on the principle of agnatic kinship, in contrast to cognatic , as can be observed in hunter-gatherer societies and later modern forms of society. This is attributed to the need for a cross-generational production organization caused by agriculture.
The understanding of property is also changing. Property - at least with regard to the means of production - is understood in segmental societies primarily as family property. In addition, there is individual ownership of products and objects for private use, which is already known in hunter-gatherer societies.
The reciprocity is also changing away from the predominantly positive reciprocity of the hunter-gatherer societies towards a balanced reciprocity (see also exchange (sociology) and egalitarian society ) .
Conflict resolution mechanisms in segmental societies are different. Peaceful and unpeaceful mechanisms based on ritual or ordal have been handed down and observed . It is predominantly assumed here that peaceful forms predominate in segmental societies. Conflicts are predominantly of a criminal nature and are settled by penalties. Witchcraft and sorcery often have a conflict-preventing character in that the expression of negative feelings is suppressed.
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