What Does Neolithic Mean in World History?

Neolithic is a term that refers to the period of human history that witnessed a significant shift in the way people lived. It is often viewed as a turning point in human civilization, marking the transition from a nomadic, hunter-gatherer lifestyle to settled agriculture and the domestication of animals. In this article, we will delve into what neolithic means in world history and explore its impact on human society.

The Origins and Definition of Neolithic

The term “neolithic” comes from the Greek words “neo” meaning new and “lithic” meaning stone. It was first coined by John Lubbock, an English archaeologist, in 1865 to describe the period marked by the use of polished stone tools. However, as archaeologists continued to uncover new evidence, they realized that neolithic was much more than just a technological shift.

Neolithic is defined by a set of cultural and social changes that took place in different parts of the world between 10,000 BCE and 2,000 BCE. During this time, humans began to settle down in fixed locations rather than wandering around in search of food. This led to the development of agriculture, which allowed people to grow their own crops and raise animals for food.

The Characteristics of Neolithic Society

One of the most significant changes brought about by neolithic was the rise of permanent settlements. People began to build houses made from mud bricks or stone and live together in larger communities. This led to the development of more complex social structures such as chiefs or kings who could organize labor and resources for large-scale projects.

Another hallmark of neolithic society was the domestication of plants and animals. Humans learned how to cultivate crops like wheat, barley, rice, and corn which provided them with a reliable source of food. They also started raising animals like cows, pigs, sheep, goats which provided them with meat, milk, and wool.

The Impact of Neolithic on Human Society

The neolithic period had a profound impact on human society. It marked the beginning of civilization as we know it today. The development of agriculture led to a surplus of food which allowed for the growth of populations and the emergence of specialized occupations.

The rise of permanent settlements also paved the way for new forms of art, architecture, and technology. Humans began to create pottery, weave textiles, build monumental structures like Stonehenge or the Pyramids, and invent new tools like plows or wheels.

However, neolithic also brought about new challenges. The concentration of people in fixed locations led to the spread of diseases and the emergence of social inequalities. Some people became more powerful than others and controlled access to resources like land or water.


In conclusion, neolithic was a pivotal period in human history that saw significant changes in how people lived and organized themselves. It marked the transition from a nomadic way of life to settled agriculture and the domestication of animals.

Neolithic laid the foundation for modern civilization by creating permanent settlements, developing new technologies, and giving rise to complex social structures. Understanding this period is crucial for understanding how we got to where we are today.