Technologies of the Neolithic Era

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  • 0:03 Neolithic Technology
  • 0:40 Agriculture
  • 1:55 Pottery and Tools
  • 4:08 Weapons and Wool
  • 5:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson, we explore some of the technologies invented, innovated, and changed by Neolithic people as well as the way it improved their lives and lessened their workload.

Neolithic Technology

Today, technology is all around us. Indeed, the very computer (or tablet, or mobile device) that you are watching this video on right now is the product of decades of technological development and likely thousands of hours of research, innovation, and invention. While it seems just about everything in our lives today is in some way touched by human technology, this was not always the case. Indeed, the Industrial Revolution of the late 18th and 19th centuries is what truly made all these goods today possible. In this lesson, we'll explore technological innovation even farther back, at the dawn of human civilization in the Neolithic Period.


Without this first technology developed by Neolithic people, the modern world you and I inhabit today would be unsustainable! This vital technology is agriculture. Though farming and herding cattle are likely one of the last things to pop into your head when you think of 'technology' today, in the ancient past, it was one of the first and likely the most meaningful large-scale manipulations of the environment by humankind. Around 12,000-10,000 years ago (about 10,000-8,000 B.C.E.), humans first began domesticating animals and plants.

The development allowed for humans to begin settling in sedentary societies, whereas previously they had lived in primarily nomadic, hunter-gatherer enclaves. This gave birth to small communities of permanent settlements surrounded by farmland—the first villages. Furthermore, humans no longer had to live hand-to-mouth as they had previously, when they were continuously hunting and foraging. Through agriculture, humans could grow large quantities of crops and tend large herds of animals, producing more food than any individual or family could eat in a day. Over the centuries as humans became better and better farmers, Neolithic civilization could support larger enclaves of humans, giving birth to cities with their own sophisticated economies and political systems.

Pottery and Tools

The birth of agriculture also spurred other innovations. For example, with less time spent gathering food every day, more time could be spent developing cultural pursuits and inventing tools to make their sedentary lives even easier. Most immediately, humans now needed somewhere to store all this excess food! While in later centuries, city-states developed complex granaries and storehouses, earlier Neolithic people simply needed some household containers. The invention of pottery filled this need.

The earliest forms of pottery, completed soon after the advent of agriculture, were earthenware. These were vessels made out of some form of malleable earth, most often clay. After they were formed into the correct shape, these pots were then fired at a low temperature to harden them and make them suitable as storage containers. Another technology, which benefited from nearly the same process, was brick making. Bricks were often made of mud, clay, or other earthen materials and fired at a low temperature or left to harden in the sun in order to make them suitable as building materials.

Other forms of technology developed during the Neolithic period were often tools or early machines invented to improve the efficiency or productivity of agricultural work. Perhaps the most important of these is the ard. The ard consisted of a single curved piece of wood, which could be controlled by a human from behind, and driven by domesticated oxen up front. Used to cut long, shallow ravines in order to plant grains and other crops, the ard was essentially the earliest form of plow used by humankind.

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