1.2 The Neolithic Revolution

Historians have divided the long period of human prehistory into different ages. They call the earliest period of human history the Old Stone Age, or Paleolithic Period. This long period dates from the time that the ancestors of early humans began to make tools—about 2 million years ago—up to about 12,000 years ago. Historians have identified a second period as the New Stone Age, or Neolithic Period. This age began about 12,000 years ago and ended with the development of writing about 5,000 years ago.

Painting of a prehistoric man and woman in group, wearing fur clothing and carrying pikes.

Scholars believe that Stone Age hunters followed animal herds across a land bridge that once connected Asia and North America.


  • Describe the skills and beliefs that early modern humans developed during the Old Stone Age.
  • Analyze why the development of agriculture is considered the start of the New Stone Age and the Neolithic Revolution.
  • Explain how the Neolithic Revolution dramatically changed the way people lived.

Key Terms

  • Old Stone Age
  • Paleolithic Period
  • New Stone Age
  • Neolithic Period
  • nomad
  • animism
  • Neolithic Revolution
  • domesticate
  • Çatalhüyük
  • Jericho
  • surplus

Old Stone Age Skills and Beliefs

During both periods, people made and used stone tools. During the New Stone Age, however, people in some parts of the world developed new skills and technologies that led to dramatic changes in their ways of life.

Over tens of thousands of years, people developed various skills that affected daily life. Recent discoveries offer evidence that the ancestors of modern humans may have used fire as early as one million years ago. Learning to control fire was a huge advance, allowing early humans to cook food, keep animals away at night, and stay warm.

Slowly, scholars and scientists have pieced together evidence to suggest how early people lived. Paleolithic people were nomads, or people who move from place to place in search of food. The evidence shows that early people lived in small hunting and food-gathering bands, numbering about 20 or 30 people.

In general, men hunted or fished. Women and children gathered berries, fruits, nuts, wild grains, roots, or even shellfish. This food kept the band alive when game animals were scarce.

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments