Precoursors of Civilization: Mesolithic and Neolithic


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Describes the rise of settled communities and the domestication of plants and animals that accompanied or preceded them. Includes the role these innovations played in esbablishing civilization.

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Precoursors of Civilization: Mesolithic and Neolithic

  1. 1. Precursors of Civilization: Mesolithic and Neolithic The Prehistoric Roots of the Humanities
  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 era of big game was past </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>Gnd 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 (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. The Neolithic: Overview <ul><li>The Neolithic, or “New Stone Age” begins at different dates (12000 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>
  10. 10. 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>
  11. 11. 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>
  12. 12. 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>
  13. 13. 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>
  14. 14. 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>
  15. 15. Primary Centers of Domestication: Where Agriculture was “Invented” <ul><li>Near East (Mesopotamia) </li></ul><ul><li>Egypt </li></ul><ul><li>South Asia (Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro) </li></ul><ul><li>Northern and Southern China </li></ul><ul><li>Southeast Asia </li></ul><ul><li>North America (SE United States) </li></ul><ul><li>Mesoamerica </li></ul><ul><li>Andean America (Peru and its neighbors) </li></ul><ul><li>Africa </li></ul>
  16. 16. Secondary Center of Domestication: Europe <ul><li>Adopted agriculture from other regions </li></ul><ul><li>Best-known: Europe, which imported domesticates from Near East </li></ul><ul><li>Europe derived much else of its features from abroad: </li></ul><ul><li>“Arabic” numbers, including the zero concept, from India through Syria </li></ul><ul><li>Phonetic writing possibly from the Phoenicians </li></ul><ul><li>Metallurgy from the Near East </li></ul>
  17. 17. Primary Centers: Near East <ul><li>Timeline: ca 12,000-8000 BCE </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>
  18. 18. 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>
  19. 19. 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>
  20. 20. 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>
  21. 21. Origins of Agriculture: Oasis Hypothesis (Childe) <ul><li>Agriculture develops near water sources </li></ul><ul><li>Receding glaciers induce water scarcity </li></ul><ul><li>Examples: Tigris/Euphrates, Nile, Indus </li></ul><ul><li>Solution for scarce land and water: intensify </li></ul><ul><li>Plants, animals, and humans in confined areas where </li></ul><ul><li>Water is limited to rivers </li></ul><ul><li>Arable land is scarce </li></ul><ul><li>Problem: No indication of receding glaciers </li></ul>
  22. 22. Origins of Agriculture: Natural Habitat Hypothesis (Braidwood) <ul><li>Domesticated Plants should develop at site of their wild ancestors </li></ul><ul><li>Jarmo developed at the edge of Fertile Crescent </li></ul><ul><li>Supported this hypothesis </li></ul>
  23. 23. Origins of Agriculture: Population Pressure (Binford, Cohen) <ul><li>Population no longer sustainable by foraging </li></ul><ul><li>Agriculture began when population reached critical mass </li></ul><ul><li>Population required more food than habitat could sustain </li></ul><ul><li>Intensification </li></ul>
  24. 24. Origins of Agriculture: Edge Hypothesis (Binford) <ul><li>Agriculture developed at the edge of natural habitat </li></ul><ul><li>Food sources scarcer at edge </li></ul><ul><li>Domestication as a strategy to intensify food sources began their </li></ul><ul><li>Agriculture spread as scarcity became more widespread </li></ul><ul><li>Cohen: Scarcity was region- or continent-wide, not confined to smaller areas. </li></ul>
  25. 25. Origins of Agriculture: Multivariate Explanation Sources <ul><li>Transition to food production is complex </li></ul><ul><li>No single place of origin, even within regions </li></ul><ul><li>Wild animals and plants were domesticated at various areas at various times (genetic fingerprinting) </li></ul><ul><li>Radiocarbon dating allows pinpointing dates of early farming </li></ul>
  26. 26. Origins of Agriculture: Multivariate Factors <ul><li>Population pressure </li></ul><ul><li>Distribution of plants </li></ul><ul><li>Rate of environmental change </li></ul><ul><li>Techniques of harvesting, such as wild grass </li></ul><ul><li>Location of plants or animals that could be domesticated </li></ul><ul><li>Seasonal distribution; “experiments” might be interrupted by need to harvest in-season food plants elsewhere </li></ul>
  27. 27. Plant Domestication: Major Attributes <ul><li>Larger yields of grain (wheat, corn) </li></ul><ul><li>Larger size of grain or fruit </li></ul><ul><li>Ease of accessibility: removal from a distant habitat so that it adapts where humans live </li></ul><ul><li>Loss of natural seeding in many cases </li></ul>
  28. 28. Plant Domestication: Loss of Natural Seeding Ability <ul><li>Wheat is a variety of grass </li></ul><ul><li>Characteristics of wheat </li></ul><ul><li>Rachis: Attaches stalk to tip of grass </li></ul><ul><li>Glume: Husk covering wheat </li></ul>
  29. 29. Wild and Domesticated Wheat Compared <ul><li>Wild Wheat </li></ul><ul><li>Brittle rachis, to ensure propagation </li></ul><ul><li>Tough, protective glume for seed </li></ul><ul><li>Domestication </li></ul><ul><li>Tough rachis, to keep seed in place </li></ul><ul><li>Brittle glume, to facilitate winnowing </li></ul><ul><li>Wheat cannot reproduce without human intervention </li></ul>
  30. 30. Animal Domestication: Population Characteristics <ul><li>Age and Sex distribution </li></ul><ul><li>Wild: Preference for young in individual hunting; all ages in drives </li></ul><ul><li>Domesticated (e.g. pigs): preference for young males; females kept for breeding </li></ul><ul><li>Species distribution </li></ul><ul><li>Relative portion of domesticated (sheep, goats) to wild (gazelles) </li></ul>
  31. 31. Animal Domestication: Breeding Patterns <ul><li>Meat, especially desirable cuts </li></ul><ul><li>Breeding to enhance yield of </li></ul><ul><li>Milk </li></ul><ul><li>Wool and/or hide </li></ul><ul><li>May take generations to determine shift from wild to domesticated forms </li></ul>
  32. 32. 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>
  33. 33. 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>
  34. 34. 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>