Interpreting the Past

Early Humans Unit: From Paleolithic to Neolithic - Identifying Changes in Daily Life

Assignments to hand in: Changes in Life During the Neolithic Period Graphic Organizer [PDF Version] | Comprehension Questions [PDF Version]

essential questions, Shared Learning Target and introduction:

Essential Question 2 - Why do people live the way they do?

Shared Learning Target:
What will I be able to do?:
You will be able to determine and describe the difference between paleolithic versus neolithic daily life characteristics and justify your conclusions.
What idea, topic, or subject is important for you to learn and understand so that I can do this?: You will learn the many differences between paleolithic and neolithic daily life and understand its significance on human history.
What I will do to show that you know this?: You will show this by completed the Changes in Life During the Neolithic Period Graphic Organizer and answering Comprehension Questions about your findings.

Understanding Checks


Painting of Paleolithic Huts

(Picture: Temporary homes that could be disassembled in order to move to find food.)

The Neolithic period was part of the Stone Age, a time period in which hominids primarily used stones as tools and weapons. Dating from approximately two million years ago to 3000 B.C.E., the Stone Age consisted of three time periods: the Paleolithic, or "Old Stone," period from roughly two million years ago to 8500 B.C.E.; the Mesolithic, or "Middle Stone Age," period from roughly 8500 to 8000 B.C.E.; and the Neolithic, or "New Stone," period from roughly 8000 B.C.E. to 3000 B.C.E.

The development of agriculture, or farming, during the Neolithic period had a tremendous effect on human society. Farming changed so many aspects of daily life that scholars have often referred to it as the "Neolithic Revolution." However, these changes did not happen suddenly, as the word "revolution" suggests, but rather took place over thousands of years.

Drawing of Neolithic buildings
(Picture: Artist rendition of ancient city of Catal Hoyuk.)

The earliest Neolithic societies arose in the modern-day countries of Turkey, Israel, and Iraq and included such settlements as Catal Hoyuk, Jericho, and Jarmo. In these settlements, people began farming, building permanent shelters, making better tools and clothing, and developing trade and craftsmanship. each of these changes made life more stable and comfortable for the people of the Neolithic period.

Introduction Video: Neolithic Agricultural Revolution (

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(YouTube Link)

Step 1: Comparing Paleolithic to Neolithic Daily Life - Complete the Changes in Life During the Neolithic Period Graphic Organizer [PDF Version]. Download and use the token pictures that represent different aspects of daily life below (If you are using the print version cut them along the dotted lines and paste them in their proper place on the organizer. Follow the directions on the chart and insert each token picture in the corresponding places. Use the information below to complete the "Justification" and "Effect on Daily Life" boxes. You can print out the text descriptions below here - Daily Life Description Handout.

Daily Life Token Pictures (to insert in graphic organizer - download them to your device):
Token - Ram & Wheat
Token - Human Creating Pottery
Token - Human Picking Berries
Token - Humans & Tents
Token - Large Flake Stone
Token - Mud/Stone Home
Token - Necklace of Animal Teeth
Token - Necklace of Precious Stones
Token - Sheep & Wheat
Token - Small Flake Stone
Token - Village of Mud/Stone Homes
Token - Tent

[Printed version of the Daily Life Tokens Handout]

Cheat Sheet: Comparing Paleolithic to Neolithic Life Chart (a little help for this task).

Food Supply (Paleolithic v. Neolithic):

Wild wheatOne of the most important changes from the Paleolithic to the Neolithic period was the way in which people obtained food. For thousands of years, Paleolithic hunter-gatherers had to search for enough food to eat. But hunting animals and gathering plants did not provide a reliable food supply. The animals and plants became scarce (rare) when the people stayed in one area for too long. Women and girls, who did most of the plant gathering, gradually learned that they could produce their own food by planting seeds. Over time, these first farmers cultivated, or grew, the seeds that would produce the most grain.

Domesticated wheatBy 4000 B.C.E., farmers were growing corn in Mexico, rice in China, and wheat and barley in Israel. In addition, Neolithic farmers found important used for animals. They tamed, or domesticated, calm and healthy sheep, dogs, goats, and cattle. People used the animals to help carry heavy burdens over long distances, and they bred the large ones as sources of many kinds of food. For example, goats and cattle provided farmers with milk, and in the winter they could be killed to supply people with extra food. Together, the cultivation of plants and the domestication of animals is known as agriculture. The development of agriculture provided Neolithic people with a more reliable food supply. Therefore, people did not have to constantly wander in search of food but could settle down to live in one area.

Occupations (Paleolithic v. Neolithic):

Hadzabe hunters in AfricaDuring the Paleolithic period, people’s main occupation was probably finding enough food to survive. During the Neolithic period, however, the increase in a reliable food supply freed people to refine special skills. These skills included sewing, building, and toolmaking. For example, in the wealthy town of Catal Hoyuk in modern-day Turkey, people developed a way to spin and weave. They wove natural fibers such as wool and linen into comfortable cloth. Other people mined flint rocks and obsidian, a black volcanic glass, from the mountains. Stoneworkers used these two hard rocks to create very sharp tools and fashion shiny jewelry and mirrors.

Potter in India Neolithic house builders began to pay attention to homes’ artistic and religious purposes. For example, a builder might smooth the house walls over with plaster and decorate them with colorful dyes. Builders also constructed special rooms called shrines to honor Gods and Goddesses. Daily life during the Neolithic period changed greatly because people occupied their time with many different activities in addition to obtaining food.


Population/Settlement (Paleolithic v. Neolithic):

Paleolithic settlementNeolithic settlements were much larger and more permanent than Paleolithic settlements. During the Paleolithic period, people traveled in bands of 20 to 60 people and lived in temporary settlements as they searched for food. During the Neolithic period, however, many people could live in one place for a long time because farming provided a reliable source of food. Some settlements grew to be as large as thousands of people. The growth in population enabled people to share work responsibilities within their settlements. Working together greatly improved food production and living conditions.

Catal Hoyuk settlement - neolithic For example, Neolithic people shared the work of cultivating crops and building permanent houses and storage huts. Toolmakers often sat around a fire and worked together in "factories" making stone axes and knife blades. In the town of Catal Hoyuk, farmers cultivated more than 14 different kinds of food plants for the city's population of about 8,000. Other people built new homes, decorated shrines (places of worship), and made tools. People's settled lifestyles also encouraged them to bury their dead in special places. For example, in Catal Hoyuk, they buried their dead underneath the floors of their houses. As Neolithic settlements grew, people's lives became more rich and varied.

Resources (Paleolithic v. Neolithic):

Paleolithic bone necklaceDuring the Paleolithic period, people used only the resources that they had in their immediate area, such as water and plants. They rarely traded with other groups of people. By contrast, during the Neolithic period, trade among settlements in the Near East and around the Mediterranean Sea grew dramatically. Trade arose when people began to seek resources that did not exist in their immediate area. As their technology grew more sophisticated, people wanted additional resources to improve the strength and beauty of their buildings, crafts, and tools.

Ancient Roman Necklace One of the materials Neolithic traders most desired was the black volcanic glass called obsidian, which could be found mostly in Anatolia, or modern-day Turkey. Traders all around the Mediterranean Sea sought obsidian because it could be used to enhance their appearance. For example, women used a red ore (mixture of rock and metal) called hematite as makeup. They rubbed the hematite on their cheeks and lips to give them a reddish glow. Men and women also strung seashells together to make bracelets and necklaces. To obtain desired resources, people often traveled hundreds of miles across mountains by foot, across deserts on donkeys, and across the sea on ships.

Shelter (Paleolithic v. Neolithic):

Paleolithic shelterThe types of shelter in which people lived changed from the Paleolithic to the Neolithic period. In the Paleolithic period, people may have lived in tents or met under rock shelters to share food and ideas. These shelters were often temporary because people had to move frequently to follow the wild animals they hunted for food. As people began to settle down and farm during the Neolithic period, they built more permanent settlements in which they could live and work. People build long-lasting houses from mud bricks, sometimes adding stones and branches to strengthen the roofs and walls.

Neolithic shelter - Catal Hoyuk Neolithic houses were either round or rectangular in shape and contained one or more rooms. In Catal Hoyuk, people entered the houses by climbing down a wooden ladder that was attached to the roof. Many houses had ovens and basins built right into the floor for storing food. For additional comfort, people took their waste outside the house and disposed of it in a courtyard. These changes in shelter during the Neolithic period provided people with a more comfortable and stable lifestyle.

Technology (Paleolithic v. Neolithic):

Paleolithic technology - stone toolsTools and clothing changed a great deal from the Paleolithic to the Neolithic period. During the Paleolithic period, hunter-gatherers used stone "choppers" to chop wood and cut meat. In the Neolithic period, toolmakers improved their stone tools by chipping away at large pieces of flint to create sharp axes. They also used obsidian to make excellent knife blades. People discovered that metal was easier to work with than stone because it was harder to break and could be melted, molded, and reshaped. Metalworkers began using metals such as gold and copper to make jewelry and tools.

Neolithic Technology - Catal Hoyuk obsidian arrowheads People also gradually replaced the rough animal skins they probably wore in the Paleolithic period with more lightweight wool, cotton, and silk clothing. They began to use clay pottery for cooking and keeping food instead of animal skins and grass baskets. Clay pottery lasted longer because it could withstand high temperatures. Some archeologists think that clay pottery was invented by accident when a cook used clay to smooth the inside of a basket, baked it over a fire, and then found only the clay bowl left when the basket burned away. All of these changes in technology during the Neolithic period improved the quality and comfort of people's daily lives.

Step 3: Comprehension Questions - Answer each question citing evidence from the lesson to back up your answers. Changes in Daily Life During the Neolithic Period Comprehension Questions [PDF Version]

1. What was the main difference between life in the Paleolithic period and life in the Neolithic period?

2. How did people's lives change as they began to domesticate plants and animals during the Neolithic period?

3. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of the changes in daily life that occurred as a result of the development of agriculture?

4. Some historians refer to the development of agriculture as a revolution because of the dramatic effect it had on people's lives. Explain why you agree or disagree with this statement.

5. Choose one of the three ages (Paleolithic, Mesolithic, or Neolithic) to write a "Day in the Life of Someone Who Lived in the __________ Age" journal entry. Write from a first-person perspective as if you were alive at that time and could describe what daily life was like then. Use the Ages Explained resource page to help write your journal entry.

Resource Link: Ages Explained webpage

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