Like the Paleolithic Period, the Neolithic Period is also divided by an early, middle, and late timeframe. The early part of the Neolithic Period reflects hunting, gathering, and primitive use of stone tools; the “esolithic” (in the middle of the time period) marks the more sophisticated use of stone tools for agriculture; and the “eneolithic” (toward the end of the period) denotes further advancement toward domestication; a surplus of food; and technology adapted toward farming, irrigation, and defense techniques. Still, the Neolithic Era is less about a chronological demarcation and more about the human behavior and interaction as people moved from clan-based communities into societies and civilizations by way of technological advances.
Neolithic consists of two separate words, neos, meaning new, and lithos, meaning stone. Historians denote this period in history because the stones used for tools during the Paleolithic Period (Old Stone) advanced from edges or points used to serve basic purposes into stone tools meant for specific functions, such as arrows, fishhooks, and spears; sharp tools used to hollow out logs that would became canoes and shelter; and lighter harpoons made from bones and antlers. During the Neolithic Period, humans transitioned from nomadic hunter-gatherers to semi-sedentary and sedentary societies and the advancement of the farming technology called the Agricultural Revolution. Additionally, this period in history also represents the cultural, intellectual, and social evolution of humans. The “revolution” was not spontaneous, but it denotes a fundamental change in how the people of the ancient world lived. They started to build semipermanent dwellings, tame animals, and essentially domesticate both plants and animals. This domestication meant that humans adapted plants and animals so they could be cultivated by humans and used for labor or food. This in turn freed humans from hunting and gathering and allowed people to control the production of food, rather than being at the mercy of whatever was available from their environment.
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Most people lived in simple agricultural villages of about 100 to 200 people, but others took the settlement process further and developed large and complex city-states in the Sumer region. Together, these people talked, tried to figure out how to best use the resources available to them, and created houses and storage facilities, cleared fields, divided territories, and appointed societal roles for people in the community. Eventually, an advanced state of trading emerged due to specialized labor and a surplus of plants and animals, which was initially not a money economy but a bartering system.