Understanding Neolithic Archaeology

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Prehistoric Human Migrations: History & Movements

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:08 Dating of New Stone Age
  • 1:00 Polished Axe
  • 2:22 Agriculture &…
  • 4:25 Social Class
  • 4:58 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson will explain archaeology's understanding of the Neolithic Age. In doing so, it will highlight the use of polished stone, the onset of agriculture, the Neolithic Revolution, and social stratification.

Dating of New Stone Age

Today's lesson on archaeology's understanding of the Neolithic Age will be an excellent example of how scientific theories are often changed, even discarded, as new discoveries call into question past suppositions. Sort of like we once thought the world was flat until some explorer proved otherwise, archaeologists continually, and literally, uncover findings that tell them their assumptions might be a bit off base.

With that teaser of sorts, let's jump into the Neolithic Age. Often referred to as the 'New Stone Age,' the Neolithic Age is loosely dated from about 5,500 BC to 2,500 BC, with some sources dating it all the way back to 10,000 BC. Keeping this wide range of dating in mind, archaeologists usually connect the Neolithic Age to the use of polished tools and especially the onset of agriculture.

Polished Axe

We'll start with polished tools. Unlike the previous Mesolithic Age, whose main tools were small pieces of sharpened flint or roughly carved wood, the Neolithic Age began the use of polished stone, specifically the polished axe.

In simple terms, it could be said that the polished axe is sort of the hallmark tool of the Neolithic Age. So important is it that if a dig uncovers one of these polished axes, it's assumed the site is no older than the Neolithic Age. In other words, just like finding a hint on a scavenger hunt, a polished axe is a great clue that the civilization being excavated probably didn't exist before around the year 5,500 BC.

Supporting the importance of the polished axe, some archaeological digs have uncovered what are believed to be actual axe factories, where these tools were actually made en masse. In fact, one of these axe factories of sorts were uncovered in Langdale, England. Interestingly, and again unlike the previous Stone Ages, some archaeologists assert that these axes were not only made for crude labor but also for enjoyment. In other words, they weren't just made to help someone cut down a tree. Axes were created as artwork, sort of like some modern men having beautifully oiled guns they'd never even think of shooting off.

Agriculture and Neolithic Revolution

Leaving the axe, we now come to the next hallmark of the Neolithic Age, the onset of agriculture. Probably the most notable thing connected with the Neolithic Age, the onset of agriculture is also the one that has some archaeologists disagreeing and even overturning theories.

To explain, archaeologists assert that agriculture, for our purposes, the domestication and management of plants and animals, was first seen in three locations, the Tigris and Euphrates River Valley, the Nile River Valley, and the Indus River Valley. Making complete sense, agriculture first began in areas with a steady supply of water. Obviously, this thought is not really contested.

However, the means in which agriculture actually developed is a bit up for grabs. In the mid-20th century, it was argued that the Neolithic Age saw a drastic, almost sudden change in human culture due to the onset of agriculture. Those who supported this idea tended to look at Neolithic man as going directly from being nomadic, moving from place to place with no specific pattern usually in an effort to find food, to becoming sedentary, or remaining in one place. This belief actually helped to coin the phrase, the 'Neolithic Revolution.'

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account