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It is somehow difficult to reconstruct with certainty the way in which the Neolithic society was composed and functioned. However, the existing knowledge of the Neolithic society is mainly derived from the architecture, economic activities, figurines, burial traditions and other discoveries from the Aegean sites. With a population of between 50 to 300 individuals, the initial Neolithic communities lived in compactly built settlements. The basic unit of society during the Neolithic Age was the extended family or clan that was composed of grandparents, parents, children and other close affinity. The members of this basic unit of society lived in one or more neighboring houses that were sharing hearths and ovens which were located in open spaces for common use. In most cases, these hearths and ovens that were shared amongst neighboring households were usually located in between the houses.
As the basic unit of society, the neighboring households were involved in economic activities that mainly involved a mixed farming and stock-rearing economy. To ensure that there was no economic differentiation and social stratification, the production was shared. For these Neolithic communities, social roles in each of the communities were basically defined depending on kinship, gender, age and involvement in communal productive processes (Dreams, 2006). Furthermore, the involvement in both farming and stock-rearing economy was a means through which the roles of both sexes were determined. Based on the findings from several female figurines, women's role in this society seemed to have been stressed, particularly at a symbolical level. This is regardless of the fact that the existing data has not clearly differentiated whether the Neolithic society was patriarchal or matriarchal. Classification of the Neolithic society has also been difficult because of the population increase that has been observed from the start of the Late Neolithic period. This increase resulted in subsequent changes in the internal organization of settlements, changes in the number of settlements and changes in economy.
The Neolithic Age:
The Neolithic period or age is also known as the New Stone Age which is a period when human beings began to settle in permanent encampments while still using stone tools. While the exact dates of this period vary based on the cultures being discussed, it is commonly dated around 10,000 BCE. As compared to the Paleolithic Period or Stone Age that precede it, the Neolithic period has numerous unique features. The Neolithic period was however characterized by a remarkable transition in the lifestyle's of human beings. An example of such dramatic transition is the transition to settled farming from the common hunting and gathering culture. As this transition allowed humans to build permanent villages and towns, it subsequently led to the development of a more complex culture. Given that the stone tools which were commonly in use during this period seemed to be more complex and refined, people began to informally explore metals (Smith & Harris, n.d.).
The Neolithic Period was also characterized by the attempts of people to experiment with crafts such as pottery, weaving and other artistic expression forms. People could invest more time in these kinds of activities because of the fact that they were now settling in agricultural communities. Furthermore, people had more time to experiment such activities because of the fact that they were no longer living a hand-to-mouth lifestyle which was common during the hunting and gathering culture. During this period, early humans also started to grow crops as well as domesticate animals for food and to work for them. Since human beings during the Neolithic Age were living in close proximity within neighborhoods, the period was marked with the evolution of serious diseases and epidemics. These epidemics and diseases also emanated from the fact that people lived in close proximity to a series of animal species.
Common Features of the Neolithic Period:
Generally, the Neolithic Period can be considered as the period in which early humans became more settled and began living in favorable places for longer periods than before. This period was characterized with some common features which include & #8230;
This is one of the major features during the Neolithic period that resulted in a transition from food hunting and gathering culture to a food cultivating culture and society. As mentioned earlier, the Neolithic Period was characterized with a shift to the growing of crops and domestication of animals for food and work. Farming became a common feature of the Neolithic Period because of the fact that early humans began settling in permanent encampments and had more time to engage in these activities. As a result of involvement in farming activities by the Neolithic communities, there was a regular and ongoing food supply during this period ("Chapter 3: The Neolithic Age," n.d.). The transition to farming from the hunter-gatherer culture led to the development of early farming sites, cultivation of crops and domestication of animals throughout Europe. The early Neolithic farmers cultivated crops such as cereals and domesticated several animals like cattle, pigs and dogs.
Development of Dense Settlements:
The second most common feature of the Neolithic Period was the development of dense settlements since people began to live in neighboring houses. In most cases, these Neolithic communities led to the development of densely populated settlements because of the fact that these settlements consisted of up to 300 individuals. The dense settlements also emanated from the fact that extended families, clans and other people of close kinship started living in one or more neighboring houses. The transition from the hunter-gatherer culture to settled agriculturalism also resulted in people living in close proximity with each other and the development of dense settlements ("The Neolithic Revolution," n.d).
Practice of Religion and Politics:
During the Neolithic Period, the practice of religion and political organization became more complex given that these people had more time to ponder the mysteries of life. However, there is inadequate information in the form of political organization during this period because of the nature of society, economy and architecture. Information concerning the some form of political organization can only be deduced from the nature of society during the Late Neolithic period.
Since the community during the Neolithic period would be headed by an esteemed elder or chief, the community governments mainly took the form of a representative democracy. The esteemed elder or chief would head the all significant tribal council which was in charge of the life of the Neolithic community. The tribal council basically comprised of representatives of the different households within a community. Since there was need for mutual agreement in all households in decisions pertaining to community health and wealth, council discussions were longer until concurrence was reached.
However, due to the growth in the size of tribes, the subdivision of the tribes into clans also grew and was equally important. Consequently, the tribal society of a Neolithic village comprised of members of a particular clan within the larger tribe. In order to bring the community clans together for tribal action especially in times of war, tribal councils were held on a regular basis. Given that land and water rights disputes were a common characteristic during this period, unity among clans was of equal importance to tribal unity because such disputes were of greater threat to the unity of the tribal community.
The practice of religion during the Neolithic period emanated from the fact that humans became more important in their own eyes during the development of the Neolithic revolution. During the Neolithic revolution, human began the search for understanding of the higher spiritualized world and its importance. Humans not only turned spirits into human forms and considered heavens as their residence but they also believed that these spirits regulated both the human and other affairs on earth.
The Structure of the Neolithic Society:
The basic structure of the Neolithic society is composed of communities in which all the members of a single community were blood descendants of the same ancestor. In each of these communities, each of the members was related to the other members by birth (Hodges, 2009). Everyone in these communities formed social links depending on the recognizable family ties that are even in existence in today's society. Members of a particular community who were not descendants of same ancestor were considered as outsiders and were sometimes subjected to unfriendly treatment. Consequently, communities during the Neolithic period were fairly restricted communities whose membership was mainly through blood ties.
Notably, the blood ties that were significant to membership in communities during the Neolithic society were subject to being quite extensive provided that genealogical records were present. While blood-related households could be grouped together as clans, they were sometimes grouped together as tribes when record-keeping was fairly sophisticated. The genealogy records not only gave identity to a specific community but it also gave identity to the individuals of the community. While personal names during the Neolithic Period were given to honor the lineage, the family names during this time basically indicated that a person whose son based on the…[continue]
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