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Mesolithic and Neolithic

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Describes the Mesolithic and Neolithic precursors of civilization and their arts

Text of Mesolithic and Neolithic

  • 1. Precursors of Civilization: Mesolithic and Neolithic The Prehistoric Roots of the Humanities and the Arts

2. Formation of Human Settlements

  • The formation of settled communities is the next phase
  • The Mesolithic is not well defined except for the lack of domesticated plants or animals
  • (Dogs for hunting is an exception.)
  • The Neolithic is defined by the domestication of plant and animals
  • By then, settled communities develop

3. Mesolithic Communities: Some Examples

  • Mount Sandel, Ireland, was settled after the extinction of megafauna (big game animals)
  • Vedbaek, Denmark, was a coastal and Island community
  • Nittano, Japan, is a classic example of a settled community with sophisticated pottery
  • And no agriculture or animal husbandry
  • All three communities were seacoast communities that depended on fishing, hunting, and gathering
  • All three began to develop specialized trades

4. Mount Sandel

  • Evidence of settled communities
  • 4 huts accommodating 8-12 persons (upper left)
  • Huts were circular with frame of bent saplings
  • Evidence of consistent food yield
  • Resource availability varied by season
  • Location near seashore ensured year-round occupation
  • Flints tools, such as this polished collection (lowerleft), were present

5. Vedbaek

  • Grave sites (22) reveal a rich material culture, including ornaments
  • Main living areas near sea, also with a rich marine life
  • Land animals important but secondary
  • The island of Vaenget Nord reveals specialized sites
  • Butchering sites
  • Stone and bone tool manufacture
  • Woodworking

6. Nittano, Japan: Settlements

  • Period is included in the Jomon pottery tradition (12,500-300 BCE)
  • Settlements were permanent, as shown by:
  • Complex tool assemblages
  • Stone drills, knives, and scrapers
  • Milling stones, including mortars and pestles, which indicate seeds and/or grains
  • Pottery, with elaborate designs
  • Horseshoe style residential patterns

7. Nittano, Japan: Subsistence Base

  • Heavy dependence on sea resources
  • 30 species of shellfish
  • Fish was harvested in all seasons but winter
  • Fishing gear: fishhooks, harpoons,canoes
  • Land Resources:
  • Land animals (deer and boar)
  • Edible plant sources (180 species)
  • Bones indicate year-round occupation

8. Nittano, Japan: Jomon Pottery

  • The period (12,500-300 BCE) begins with a rope design (upper left)
  • Cords are pressed into the soft clay before firing : Jomon means cord marking
  • They were probably modeled after reed baskets
  • Later, in the Middle Jomon (2500-1500 BCE) the top of the pots took on a playful design (lower left)
  • They may or may not have meaning
  • Human figures (called dogu) also made their appearance.

9. Tassili, Algeria

  • Rock painting suggests transition between foraging and herding domesticated animals
  • This painting depicts men herding cattle and other animals at a site in Algeria, Tassili
  • Other rock art show war scenes, herdsmen warding off lion attacks, and dancing
  • Both human and animal figures reflect todays population

10. The Neolithic: Overview

  • The Neolithic, or New Stone Age begins at different dates (6000-4000 BCE in the Near East) in different locations.
  • The features are the presence of:
  • Domesticated plants, usually a staple such as wheat (Near East), corn (Mesoamerica) and rice (Central China or Southeast Asia)
  • Domesticated animals (principally cattle, sheep, goats, horses, and camels)

11. Fertile Crescent: The FirstNeolithic Region

  • The earliest known sites are found in the Near East around the so-called Fertile Crescent, from the Upper Nile to the East Mediterranean (Levant)
  • Then into Turkey and Syria andto present-day Iraq.

12. Land Use in Foraging versus Agriculture

  • Hunting and Gathering entails: :
  • Extensive plant/animal exploitation
  • Foraging over wide era
  • Agriculture entails:
  • Plant/Animal Domestication
  • Intensive plant/animal exploitation
  • Intensive cultivation of a small geographical area; herding (if practiced along) may involve extensive land use.

13. Defining Characteristics of Neolithic Era

  • Plant/Animal domestication
  • Settled Communities or Regular Migration within small, well-defined area
  • Technologies requiring settlement involve:
  • Stones for grinding grains
  • Pottery for cooking and storage
  • Metallurgy for making agricultural implements
  • Food Storage in pottery or in bins made of stone or clay
  • Housing on permanent sites
  • Trash sites: where you have large populations you have a lot of trash and garbage.

14. Characteristics of Agriculture: Plants

  • Cultivation:Preparingsoil
  • Propagation:Seed selection and planting
  • Husbandry : weeding, providing water, protection from pests
  • Harvestingof seeds (grain), fruits, or leaves when ripe
  • Reproduction:seed storage

15. Characteristics of Agriculture: Animals

  • Selection and breeding of animals for desired characteristics (meat, milk, wool)
  • Husbandry: feeding and protecting animals during nonproductive periods
  • Harvesting: Slaughter for meat, milking, shearing

16. Primary Centers: Near East

  • Timeline: ca 6
  • Eastern Mediterranean
  • Wheat, barley, rye
  • Legumes: peas, lentils
  • Fruits: Grapes, figs, olives
  • Fibers: flax
  • Animals: Pigs, sheep, goats
  • Principal technology: canal irrigation

17. Primary Centers: Egypt and the Nile Valley

  • Timeline: ca 7000-5000 BC
  • Grains: Wheat, Barley
  • Fibers: Flax
  • Animals: Pigs, Sheep, Goats, Cattle
  • Principal Technology: flood plain irrigation

18. Primary Centers: South Asia (Indus River)

  • Wheat may have diffused from Near East
  • Animals were indigenous: camels, goats, water buffalo
  • Principal technology: canal irrigation

19. Origins of Agriculture: Commonalities in Explanations

  • Usually rejected: evident advantages of agriculture
  • Involves more work than foraging
  • Productivity beyond need
  • Explanatory Commonalities
  • Less available land for foraging
  • Limitation of water supply
  • Relative overpopulation
  • Occurrence of plants and animals that can be domesticated

20. Concomitants of Domestication: Technology

  • Grinding tools, from mano and metate or mortar and pestle to millstones
  • Pottery
  • Metallurgy
  • Transportation: horse, oxen and cart
  • Roads and trade routes
  • Seagoing vessels

21. Concomitants of Domestication: Social Consequences

  • Settled communities
  • Socioeconomic differentiation
  • Simple to complex social structure
  • Economic specialization (nonfarm) and trade
  • Rise of money
  • Political institutions: chiefdom to state
  • Legal institutions and codified law

22. Concomitants of Domestication: Rise of the Humanities

  • We encounter a more leisured society because
  • High productivity allows freedom for some from subsistence activities.
  • Full-time artisans take up the slack
  • Artisans include those of luxury goods which include sculpture, painting, drawing
  • They also include more intangible pursuits, such as music, drama, dance, and even philosophy

23. Northern Europe

  • Europe was a secondary center of the Neolithic Revolution, having acquired agriculture from the Near East
  • Several megalith (large stone) structure dotted Malta, France, Germany, and England
  • Temples and a necropolis (city of the dead) were found at Ggandija on Gozo island near in Malta, an island between Italy and North Africa
  • Carnac, Brittany, France, is a site of megaliths
  • The best known is Stonehenge, southern England

24. Case Studies: Stonehenge

  • Stonehenge is the best-known megalithic structures in the European Neolithic (uppe

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