Neolithic settlements

Neolithic settlements

As a result of the revolutionary advances in the Neolithic, settling human communities established the first lasting settlements.

History

Keywords

Neolithic period, settlement, village, place of residence, dwelling, community, excavation, sanctuary, agriculture, wall painting, adobe brick, prehistory, lifestyle, neolit, animal husbandry, archaeology, defence, safety

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Scenes

Neolithic settlements

The New Stone Age (Neolithic) was the last period of the Stone Age, following the Middle Stone Age (Mesolithic). The division between these periods is rather cultural than temporal. Therefore, the term Neolithic not only represents a historical era, but also a specific social, economic and cultural style.
Main attributes were the appearance of agriculture, farming, crafts and the emergence the major settlements.
Neolithic Culture appeared around 10,000 BC in the Near East, and from there it spread by the new ideas and inventions and migrating people.
Typical Neolithic communities were established in Southeastern Anatolia (Turkey), Syria and Iraq. The New Stone Age ended when metal-tools became widespread (Copper Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age).

Parallel with the rise of agriculture and livestock production, settling human communities created more lasting and more comfortable dwellings.
Buildings, first constructed of wattle and daub, later of mudbricks, became larger and safer.
The agrarian lifestyle allowed larger groups to live together. Villages were established, providing greater security. Some of the neolithic settlements (due to their size and organization) can be considered towns. Çatal Höyük, already thriving between the 7th–6th millennium BC (5,000 inhabitants, 12 hectares, located in present-day Turkey), and Jericho (about 2,000 inhabitants, stone walls, now located in the West Bank), are the best examples of this.

Ground plan of Çatal Höyük

Everyday life

Life in the Neolithic Age

Archaeological excavations and the common structure of settlements do not suggest any strong social hierarchy being established in neolithic settlements. Households were probably economically independent. Agriculture was practiced within extended families (three generations living together).
Village leaders were chosen from wise, respected male members of families. Shamans were especially respected - due to their healing powers.
The new lifestyle required new tools. The Neolithic Age is also called the 'Polished stone age'. Neolithic tools lasted longer and were stronger. Households also used items made of bones, fibres and wicker.
The first crafts that appeared were pottery and weaving. Excess crops were stored in pots made of clay or carved stone. A primitive form of trading, bartering appeared.

Structure of settlements

  • settlement
  • farming
  • houses built close to each other

Neolithic buildings

Dwellings were built in tight clusters, often sharing common walls. Many of the buildings had several storeys. The rooms were accessible through openings on the roofs, covered with wooden 'doors'. Ladders were provided to reach the rooftop and the rooms. There were small, open windows high up on the walls. The small rooms providing housing for a single family had sunken floors, with the hearth in the center.

Excavation in Çatal Höyük

Reconstruction of a Neolithic room

Animation

Courtyard

  • flat roof
  • pen
  • window opening
  • wall
  • entrance

Cutaway of the house

  • storage
  • animal hide
  • beam
  • furnace
  • hearth
  • sleeping place
  • adobe brick
  • firewood
  • wall painting
  • doorway

Altar

  • furnace
  • animal hides
  • pots
  • beam
  • bull heads
  • wall painting
  • layer of clay
  • adobe brick

Narration

The New Stone Age -the Neolithic Age- not only represents a historical era, but also a specific social, economic and cultural style. Its most important features were the appearance of agriculture, animal husbandry and the first crafts, as well as the emergence of major settlements.
The Neolithic culture appeared around 10,000 BC in the Near East. Neolithic communities were established in south-eastern Anatolia, Syria and Iraq. The people who settled there constructed more durable and comfortable dwellings for themselves. Villages were established too, providing greater security.

Dwellings were built in tight clusters, often with common walls. Their base area was around 20–30 m².
Settlements consisted of several dozen houses, major ‘cities’ of hundreds of them. Many of the buildings, first constructed of wattle and daub, and later of mud bricks, consisted of several storeys. The houses had no entrances on the street level, only a few small windows high up on the walls. The rooms were accessible through openings on the roofs, covered with wooden trap-doors. Ladders were provided to reach the rooftop and move from one floor to the next.
Archaeological findings and the common structure of settlements do not suggest any strong social hierarchy in Neolithic settlements.

Agriculture was practised within extended families. The new lifestyle required new tools; the Neolithic Age is also called the ‘Polished stone age’. The first crafts to appear were pottery and weaving. Crops were stored in pots made of clay or carved stone. Households also used items made of bones, fibres and wicker.

The appearance of Neolithic settlements was the starting point for urban development, a springboard which is still admired by visitors to these archaeological excavations.

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