The Neolithic Revolution: c. 10,000 BCE - 4000 BCE

AP Concept: 1.2 The Neolithic Revolution and Early Agricultural Societies
Key Concepts
  • The Neolithic Revolution transformed human societies into sedentary, farm-based communities with more complex organization
The Neolithic Revolution
  • Between 10,000 BCE and 8000 BCE, humans transitioned from hunting and gathering to farming and raising animals
  • This is known as the Neolithic Revolution because it utterly transformed human existence
  • The change occurred very gradually, over hundreds of years
  • Humans found that they could control their food sources by planting seeds and cultivating crops
  • Over time, they selected for the best-producing seeds, thus contributing to the evolution of edible crops
  • The crops they raised depended on their location, and developed agriculture independently at different times:
  • Humans in China raised rice and millet
  • People in the Near East raised cereals and figs
  • People in southeast Asia grew taro and bananas
  • People in Mesoamerica grew squash and maize, which migrated to North America
  • Those in sub-Saharan Africa grew yams and sorghum
  • The first farmers relied on slash-and-burn agriculture, which depleted the land's fertility after only a few years people typically moved to new land, thus encouraging the spread of agriculture
  • Humans also domesticated animals, which gave them reliable sources of meat
  • The Fertile Crescent (Turkey, Iraq, and Iran) began domesticating cattle, pigs, and sheep between 13,000 and 10,000 years ago, and domestication spread with agriculture
Impact of the Neolithic Revolution
  • Humans now had to stay in one place (aside from moving to more fertile land) to raise crops and animals they settled in small villages
  • Farming required more physical labor, but people now had reliable sources of food this stability encouraged a population boom
  • Led to changes in gender roles
  • Previously both men and women had held equal, if different, roles in the hunter-gatherer lifestyle: men typically hunted, and women spent time gathering fruits, nuts, and vegetables
  • In a farming lifestyle, men spent most of their time outside the home in the fields or working with animals, and women worked in the home processing food, making clothes, and caring for children
  • Women's work began to be seen as less important than men's, as it was less directly related to survival
  • People began to divide and own land privately land came to indicate economic power
  • Those who owned more land became wealthier than others, thus creating economic stratification
  • Social classes began to emerge
  • Farming led to job specialization
  • When a successful village began to produce a surplus of food, some workers could be excused from farming altogether
  • Instead, they could work in specialized trades such as metalworking or act as religious leaders they provided services for those who continued to farm
  • For the first time, people could spend their working lives focused on something other than survival

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AP World History Notes
Inventions in Early Agricultural Societies: c. 10,000 BCE - 3000 BCE