Mesolithic and Neolithic


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Describes the Mesolithic and Neolithic precursors of civilization and their arts

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Mesolithic and Neolithic

  1. 1. Precursors of Civilization: Mesolithic and Neolithic The Prehistoric Roots of the Humanities and the Arts
  2. 2. Formation of Human Settlements <ul><li>The formation of settled communities is the next phase </li></ul><ul><li>The Mesolithic is not well defined except for the lack of domesticated plants or animals </li></ul><ul><li>(Dogs for hunting is an exception.) </li></ul><ul><li>The Neolithic is defined by the domestication of plant and animals </li></ul><ul><li>By then, settled communities develop </li></ul>
  3. 3. Mesolithic Communities: Some Examples <ul><li>Mount Sandel, Ireland, was settled after the extinction of megafauna (big game animals) </li></ul><ul><li>Vedbaek, Denmark, was a coastal and Island community </li></ul><ul><li>Nittano, Japan, is a classic example of a settled community with sophisticated pottery— </li></ul><ul><li>And no agriculture or animal husbandry </li></ul><ul><li>All three communities were seacoast communities that depended on fishing, hunting, and gathering </li></ul><ul><li>All three began to develop specialized trades </li></ul>
  4. 4. Mount Sandel <ul><li>Evidence of settled communities </li></ul><ul><li>4 huts accommodating 8-12 persons (upper left) </li></ul><ul><li>Huts were circular with frame of bent saplings </li></ul><ul><li>Evidence of consistent food yield </li></ul><ul><li>Resource availability varied by season </li></ul><ul><li>Location near seashore ensured year-round occupation </li></ul><ul><li>Flints tools, such as this polished collection (lower left), were present </li></ul>
  5. 5. Vedbaek <ul><li>Grave sites (22) reveal a rich material culture, including ornaments </li></ul><ul><li>Main living areas near sea, also with a rich marine life </li></ul><ul><li>Land animals important but secondary </li></ul><ul><li>The island of Vaenget Nord reveals specialized sites </li></ul><ul><li>Butchering sites </li></ul><ul><li>Stone and bone tool manufacture </li></ul><ul><li>Woodworking </li></ul>
  6. 6. Nittano, Japan: Settlements <ul><li>Period is included in the Jomon pottery tradition (12,500-300 BCE) </li></ul><ul><li>Settlements were permanent, as shown by: </li></ul><ul><li>Complex tool assemblages </li></ul><ul><li>Stone drills, knives, and scrapers </li></ul><ul><li>Milling stones, including mortars and pestles, which indicate seeds and/or grains </li></ul><ul><li>Pottery, with elaborate designs </li></ul><ul><li>Horseshoe style residential patterns </li></ul>
  7. 7. Nittano, Japan: Subsistence Base <ul><li>Heavy dependence on sea resources </li></ul><ul><li>30 species of shellfish </li></ul><ul><li>Fish was harvested in all seasons but winter </li></ul><ul><li>Fishing gear: fishhooks, harpoons, canoes </li></ul><ul><li>Land Resources: </li></ul><ul><li>Land animals (deer and boar) </li></ul><ul><li>Edible plant sources (180 species) </li></ul><ul><li>Bones indicate year-round occupation </li></ul>
  8. 8. Nittano, Japan: Jomon Pottery <ul><li>The period (12,500-300 BCE) begins with a rope design (upper left) </li></ul><ul><li>Cords are pressed into the soft clay before firing : Jomon means “cord marking” </li></ul><ul><li>They were probably modeled after reed baskets </li></ul><ul><li>Later, in the Middle Jomon (2500-1500 BCE) the top of the pots took on a playful design (lower left) </li></ul><ul><li>They may or may not have meaning </li></ul><ul><li>Human figures (called dogu) also made their appearance. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Tassili, Algeria <ul><li>Rock painting suggests transition between foraging and herding domesticated animals </li></ul><ul><li>This painting depicts men herding cattle and other animals at a site in Algeria, Tassili </li></ul><ul><li>Other rock art show war scenes, herdsmen warding off lion attacks, and dancing </li></ul><ul><li>Both human and animal figures reflect today’s population </li></ul>
  10. 10. The Neolithic: Overview <ul><li>The Neolithic, or “New Stone Age” begins at different dates (6000-4000 BCE in the Near East) in different locations. </li></ul><ul><li>The features are the presence of: </li></ul><ul><li>Domesticated plants, usually a staple such as wheat (Near East), corn (Mesoamerica) and rice (Central China or Southeast Asia) </li></ul><ul><li>Domesticated animals (principally cattle, sheep, goats, horses, and camels) </li></ul>
  11. 11. Fertile Crescent: The First Neolithic Region <ul><li>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) </li></ul><ul><li>Then into Turkey and Syria and to present-day Iraq. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Land Use in Foraging versus Agriculture <ul><li>Hunting and Gathering entails: : </li></ul><ul><li>Extensive plant/animal exploitation </li></ul><ul><li>Foraging over wide era </li></ul><ul><li>Agriculture entails: </li></ul><ul><li>Plant/Animal Domestication </li></ul><ul><li>Intensive plant/animal exploitation </li></ul><ul><li>Intensive cultivation of a small geographical area; herding (if practiced along) may involve extensive land use. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Defining Characteristics of Neolithic Era <ul><li>Plant/Animal domestication </li></ul><ul><li>Settled Communities or Regular Migration within small, well-defined area </li></ul><ul><li>Technologies requiring settlement involve: </li></ul><ul><li>Stones for grinding grains </li></ul><ul><li>Pottery for cooking and storage </li></ul><ul><li>Metallurgy for making agricultural implements </li></ul><ul><li>Food Storage in pottery or in bins made of stone or clay </li></ul><ul><li>Housing on permanent sites </li></ul><ul><li>Trash sites: where you have large populations you have a lot of trash and garbage. </li></ul>
  14. 14. Characteristics of Agriculture: Plants <ul><li>Cultivation: Preparing soil </li></ul><ul><li>Propagation: Seed selection and planting </li></ul><ul><li>Husbandry : weeding, providing water, protection from pests </li></ul><ul><li>Harvesting of seeds (grain), fruits, or leaves when ripe </li></ul><ul><li>Reproduction: seed storage </li></ul>
  15. 15. Characteristics of Agriculture: Animals <ul><li>Selection and breeding of animals for desired characteristics (meat, milk, wool) </li></ul><ul><li>Husbandry: feeding and protecting animals during nonproductive periods </li></ul><ul><li>Harvesting: Slaughter for meat, milking, shearing </li></ul>
  16. 16. Primary Centers: Near East <ul><li>Timeline: ca 6 </li></ul><ul><li>Eastern Mediterranean </li></ul><ul><li>Wheat, barley, rye </li></ul><ul><li>Legumes: peas, lentils </li></ul><ul><li>Fruits: Grapes, figs, olives </li></ul><ul><li>Fibers: flax </li></ul><ul><li>Animals: Pigs, sheep, goats </li></ul><ul><li>Principal technology: canal irrigation </li></ul>
  17. 17. Primary Centers: Egypt and the Nile Valley <ul><li>Timeline: ca 7000-5000 BC </li></ul><ul><li>Grains: Wheat, Barley </li></ul><ul><li>Fibers: Flax </li></ul><ul><li>Animals: Pigs, Sheep, Goats, Cattle </li></ul><ul><li>Principal Technology: flood plain irrigation </li></ul>
  18. 18. Primary Centers: South Asia (Indus River) <ul><li>Wheat may have diffused from Near East </li></ul><ul><li>Animals were indigenous: camels, goats, water buffalo </li></ul><ul><li>Principal technology: canal irrigation </li></ul>
  19. 19. Origins of Agriculture: Commonalities in Explanations <ul><li>Usually rejected: evident advantages of agriculture </li></ul><ul><li>Involves more work than foraging </li></ul><ul><li>Productivity beyond need </li></ul><ul><li>Explanatory Commonalities </li></ul><ul><li>Less available land for foraging </li></ul><ul><li>Limitation of water supply </li></ul><ul><li>Relative overpopulation </li></ul><ul><li>Occurrence of plants and animals that can be domesticated </li></ul>
  20. 20. Concomitants of Domestication: Technology <ul><li>Grinding tools, from mano and metate or mortar and pestle to millstones </li></ul><ul><li>Pottery </li></ul><ul><li>Metallurgy </li></ul><ul><li>Transportation: horse, oxen and cart </li></ul><ul><li>Roads and trade routes </li></ul><ul><li>Seagoing vessels </li></ul>
  21. 21. Concomitants of Domestication: Social Consequences <ul><li>Settled communities </li></ul><ul><li>Socioeconomic differentiation </li></ul><ul><li>Simple to complex social structure </li></ul><ul><li>Economic specialization (nonfarm) and trade </li></ul><ul><li>Rise of money </li></ul><ul><li>Political institutions: chiefdom to state </li></ul><ul><li>Legal institutions and codified law </li></ul>
  22. 22. Concomitants of Domestication: Rise of the Humanities <ul><li>We encounter a more leisured society because </li></ul><ul><li>High productivity allows freedom for some from subsistence activities. </li></ul><ul><li>Full-time artisans take up the slack </li></ul><ul><li>Artisans include those of luxury goods which include sculpture, painting, drawing </li></ul><ul><li>They also include more intangible pursuits, such as music, drama, dance, and even philosophy </li></ul>
  23. 23. Northern Europe <ul><li>Europe was a secondary center of the Neolithic Revolution, having acquired agriculture from the Near East </li></ul><ul><li>Several megalith (large stone) structure dotted Malta, France, Germany, and England </li></ul><ul><li>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 </li></ul><ul><li>Carnac, Brittany, France, is a site of megaliths </li></ul><ul><li>The best known is Stonehenge, southern England </li></ul>
  24. 24. Case Studies: Stonehenge <ul><li>Stonehenge is the best-known megalithic structures in the European Neolithic (upper left) </li></ul><ul><li>Location: plains of Salisbury in S. England </li></ul><ul><li>Structure is a post-and-lintel type of construction </li></ul><ul><li>Menhirs are vertical columns of massive stone (post) </li></ul><ul><li>Dolmens are the stone “tables” placed on the dolmens (lintels) </li></ul><ul><li>This structure is called a trilithon </li></ul>
  25. 25. Stonehenge: Structure (Con’t) <ul><li>Posts and lintels are attached using a projection from the post called a tenon </li></ul><ul><li>The tenon fits into a hole, or mortice , in the lintel (upper left) </li></ul><ul><li>The trilithons are arranged in a circle, or chromtechs </li></ul><ul><li>These stones, composed of limestone, are called sarsens </li></ul>
  26. 26. Stonehenge: Aubrey Holes <ul><li>Outside the circle are 56 Aubrey holes, named after their discoverer John Aubrey </li></ul><ul><li>These are 3-foot holes filled with chalk </li></ul><ul><li>A ditch surrounds the outer perimeter </li></ul><ul><li>The holes are said to be calibrated to track the eclipse of the moon over 56 years </li></ul>
  27. 27. Other Parts of Stonehenge <ul><li>Outside the structure is the Heel Stone, placed northeast (upper left) </li></ul><ul><li>Within the cromtech is the Altar Stone, partly surrounded by five inner trilithons, made of bluestone </li></ul><ul><li>Viewed from the Altar stone, it is said that the sun rises directly over the heel stone in summer solstice </li></ul>
  28. 28. Questions Raised by Stonehenge <ul><li>How were such heavy stones moved from their sources no less than 26 miles away and as far away as Wales? </li></ul><ul><li>How were these structures built without pulleys and other modern technologies? </li></ul><ul><li>What were these sites for? Religion? Predictions? </li></ul><ul><li>Is there anything to archaeological astronomy, such as claims of the Aubrey holes forecasting lunar eclipses? </li></ul><ul><li>How about the claim that the sun rises directly above the Heel Stone when viewed from the Altar Stone? </li></ul><ul><li>Inferences are many; conclusive evidence is limited. </li></ul>
  29. 29. Neolithic Revolution <ul><li>Every civilization began with a Neolithic Revolution </li></ul><ul><li>These will be mentioned at the beginning of each section for Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Egypt </li></ul><ul><li>In all areas, a surplus supported an increasing population </li></ul><ul><li>Nonagricultural crafts led to specialization and trade </li></ul><ul><li>Large populations and trade had to be coordination, leading to the rise of a political elite and thereby social classes </li></ul>