What was Life Like in the Neolithic Period?

Instructor: Tommi Waters

TK Waters has a bachelor's degree in literature and religious studies and a master's degree in religious studies and teaches Hebrew Bible at Western Kentucky University.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in one of the very first human civilizations? Read this lesson to learn more about what the world and everyday life were like during the Neolithic Age, the last period of the Stone Age.

An Age of Change

Imagine a life where the only people you know are your family, you live in caves and huts, you rarely do anything that is not for survival, and it is always cold and icy. This was what life was like for people living during the Paleolithic Age - but this age and the last Ice Age that was a part of it finally ended, eventually transitioning to the Neolithic Age. The Neolithic Age was a huge change from the prior periods. Let's take a look at how these changes affected the world and everyday life for the late Stone Age people.

The Neolithic Revolution

The Neolithic Age was the last period of the Stone Age and acted as an age of transition and new beginnings for humanity, before it moved into the Bronze and Iron Ages that saw the rise of famous ancient civilizations, like the Egyptians and Greeks. Because the Neolithic Age was seemingly the start of these changes, many refer to it as the Neolithic Revolution.

This ''revolution'' drastically changed the way of life for people, not to mention the climate changed from the harshness of the Ice Age to a much more temperate environment. Before this point, most people got their food from hunting and gathering, but in the Neolithic Age, people worked in agriculture, cultivating crops, and domesticating animals. In fact, food could be grown in mass amounts on farms with the aid of new technologies, like irrigation canals that brought rainwater to the fields, so people did not have to live life solely focused on survival.

One of the major differences was the rise of civilizations. Up to this point, most humans were nomadic, living a life of traveling from place to place without a permanent settlement. Some people lived in villages prior to the Neolithic Age, but this age saw a widespread establishment of cities. Cities were not as developed as what we have today, but people living in these Neolithic cities had governments, religious organizations, and even various jobs. Since farmers were producing way more food than they needed for their family, not everyone had to farm, so others were able to have different occupations. This allowed for the discovery and development of various technologies, like textiles, tools, weapons, and architecture.

Aerial picture of the ruins of Ur, a famous Neolithic city
Aerial picture of the ruins of Ur

Everyday Neolithic Life

So what would it be like to live everyday life during the Neolithic Age? Neolithic people worked hard - even though they did not have to live solely for survival anymore, most people had jobs to do that required a lot of physical labor. In the Neolithic Age, you might have been a farmer - as many people were - or might have worked in a trade. Weapons and tools were not the only things being made by tradespeople. They even created pottery, sculptures, and jewelry! If you were a jeweler and needed food for your family, you might trade with a farmer in an exchange of goods. The food available was different depending on where in the world you lived, but most people would have eaten roasted meats, some vegetables and fruit, and a lot of grains, like wheat and barley. Bread would also be a staple since it was cheap to make and filling.

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