Home » Humanity » The Stone Age. Part 3. Neolithic (10-3 thousand years ago)

The Stone Age. Part 3. Neolithic (10-3 thousand years ago)

General characteristics of the Neolithic

A necklace made of stone. Ca. 4600 BC France.

A necklace made of stone. Ca. 4600 BC France.

The Neolithic is a special epoch in the history of mankind, it ends the period of the Stone Age, during which people used only stone, bone and wood for the manufacture of tools. The time when copper, and later its alloys, were used for the production of tools, weapons, and jewelry marks the end of the Neolithic and the entire Stone Age, and the beginning of the metal age.

Due to the differences in the pace and nature of development that developed in the Mesolithic, the chronological framework of the Neolithic in different climatic zones is determined differently.

  • So, in the “lands of the fertile crescent”, which includes the Middle East and North Africa, we can talk about the beginning of the Neolithic era already in the VIII-VII thousand BC.
  • In Central Asia, Southern Europe and the Northern Black Sea Region, the Neolithic is distinguished from the beginning or middle of the VII and lasts until the IV thousand BC.
  • In the forest zone of Eurasia, beginning mainly at the turn of the VI and V or V thousand BC, this era lasted until the turn of the III—II, and in some areas, especially in the Far North, it may have lasted longer.

Neolithic — the era of the heyday of the technique of processing traditional materials-stone, bone and wood, with the wide spread and improvement of such progressive processing techniques as

  • grinding,
  • drilling,
  • sawing.

Initially, the Neolithic was distinguished as the “era of polished stone”. In addition, at this time, ceramics are very widely used for various purposes-mainly for the manufacture of vessels, as well as various utensils — spinning wheels, sinkers, small plastics. Often it is the presence of ceramics that is considered the defining feature of the Neolithic era.

In the Neolithic period, there was the formation and wide spread of the productive economy (agriculture and cattle breeding) — one of the most important achievements in the history of mankind. Having appeared in early forms in the Middle East in the Mesolithic, in the Neolithic it covered wide areas of Eurasia, causing significant changes in all spheres of socio-economic activity — material culture, social structure, lifestyle, worldview. This phenomenon in the history of mankind is called the Neolithic revolution.

Thus, two different approaches are often used to define the Neolithic age —

  • gunnery. It takes into account the qualitative changes in material culture, especially the spread of ceramic dishes, the widespread use of grinding in stone processing, the emergence of new groups of tools;
  • economic — the presence of producing forms of economy.

It should be noted that the application of the second approach is not always possible, since in large regions the transition to a productive economy occurred much later or did not occur at all. At the same time, it should be said that the spread of ceramics is not always associated with one or another type of economy: the cultures of the “pre-Ceramic Neolithic”, whose carriers were early farmers and cattle breeders, are well known. It seems that the time has come to develop new criteria for the characterization of the Neolithic, combining both of these approaches.

Natural conditions

Natural and climatic conditions in the Neolithic period were mostly determined by the Atlantic climatic optimum of the Holocene and, to a much lesser extent, by the Subboreal period. In the Atlantic period (6000-2600 BC), the greatest shift of physical and geographical zones to the north was observed. This period is characterized mainly by a warm and humid climate, although there are different climatic phases with more and less moisture.

According to the data of spore-pollen analysis, it is possible to reconstruct the main features of the vegetation, which was much more thermophilic than in later times. The forest zone was dominated by mixed, mostly broad-leaved forests with coniferous species, only in the north replaced by dark coniferous taiga. Most of Western and Central Europe was covered with broad-leaved forests, and the steppe areas were characterized by a rich variety of grasses.

At the beginning of the Atlantic period, black earth soils are formed in the southern regions, and podzolic and marsh soils are formed in the more northern regions. The animal world was more diverse and richer than the modern one, which corresponded to the vegetation cover. Even in the northern regions there were tur, red deer, wild boar, not counting such traditional forest animals as elk, bear, beaver, sable, marten, squirrel and many others. Among the birds there were a lot of waterfowl, rivers and lakes abounded with fish. The sea coasts served as an excellent base for marine gathering, fishing and hunting of sea animals.

At the beginning of the subboreal period (2600-1200 years BC), some cooling occurred, which led to aridization of the climate in the subsequent stages, which caused corresponding changes in the environment.

Economy and everyday life

Productive economy and domestication

Man has maintained an appropriating economy, that is, he has provided himself with the products that nature itself has provided, for most of its history-about three million years. The production economy, i.e. the system of production of the main food resources obtained through agriculture and cattle breeding, was formed relatively recently-no more than 11-10 thousand years ago.

According to modern ideas, the process of the “Neolithic revolution” was long and very uneven in different geographical areas. The beginning of the transition to productive types of economy belongs in a number of regions to the Mesolithic era, and this process sometimes ends only in the Iron Age. In some regions, the economy still has an appropriating character.

Studies of Neolithic and Mesolithic sites in the Middle East, the Balkans, and Central Asia have shown that the production economy may have originated in some cases even before the invention of ceramics, then it is called the “pre-ceramic Neolithic”. Although the process of the emergence and development of the producing economy in different parts of the Oikumene was extremely diverse, a number of defining moments can be identified in it:

1. A huge role was played by natural prerequisites, namely, that in some few areas, the wild ancestors of future domestic plants and animals were represented in much greater numbers and diversity than in other places. That is why there were only a few centers of domestication and breeding of plants and animals. In studying and solving this problem — the prerequisites for the emergence of agriculture — the work of N. I. Vavilov, who made a number of scientific expeditions and identified several such centers, was of great importance:

  • these are the “fertile crescent lands” (north Africa, the Middle East, and Northern Iran) where wheat and barley were domesticated;
  • The Yangtze and Yellow Rivers and the Indus Valley are home to legumes and rice;
  • Mesoamerica is the birthplace of maize( corn), potatoes (sweet potatoes).

There were significantly more animal domestication centers than plant breeding centers, and discussions about where different animal species were first domesticated are still ongoing. The area where small and large cattle, as well as pigs, were bred (domesticated), according to the general opinion of experts, is Asia Minor and the Iranian Highlands. However, there is considerable disagreement about the time and place of domestication of other species. For example, in recent years, new evidence has emerged that Neolithic tribes living in the Lower and Middle Podonye-Volga region bred horses as early as the beginning of the VI millennium BC, although previously the domestication of the horse belonged to the IV millennium BC. A special place in the life of early farmers was occupied by animals that helped to preserve the crop from numerous rodents — they were a cat and, in some areas, a ferret. It is clear why in early agricultural civilizations the cat was often deified, for example, the goddess Bastet in Ancient Egypt was depicted with a cat’s head.

2. Collecting has created a complex of empirical ideas about the nutritional qualities of fruits and grains of wild plants of all kinds. With intensive gathering, man began to take primitive care of the areas of plants from which he collected the “harvest” and where he even carried out primitive selection — the so-called “patronizing gathering”.

3. Knowledge about the possibility of taming wild animals was obtained as a result of long-term experience of keeping wounded animals or their young in captivity as a “food reserve”.

4. A certain crisis of the appropriating economy led to the fact that a person could not get enough food by the old methods. Such crisis situations could arise due to changes in the natural environment, such as climate change, but could also be provoked by humans. So, at the end of the Mesolithic in the steppes of the Northern Black Sea region there was a specific crisis of hunting economy, due to too active hunting activity of the population. This circumstance led to the intensification of gathering and created the prerequisites for a rapid transition to productive forms of economy in the Neolithic.

In the formation of the manufacturing economy, two main directions emerged:

  • selection of plants containing carbohydrates and proteins, primarily legumes and cereals, and
  • domestication of animals whose meat and milk also contain the proteins necessary for humans.

As a rule, in the Neolithic economy was complex-it combined in different proportions, depending on the environmental conditions, agriculture, cattle breeding, gathering, fishing and hunting.

In the Neolithic period, the uneven development of societies living in different landscape and climatic conditions was particularly pronounced.

Along with the societies of farmers and pastoralists, there were societies whose economy was based entirely on traditional activities — hunting, gathering and fishing. It would be a mistake to call the societies of these hunters, gatherers, and fishermen backward: the transition to a productive economy in these regions was not a vital necessity at that time. On the contrary, in many cases, the level of their life support was not lower, and sometimes even higher, than that of the collectives that were moving or had already moved to the producing economy.

The emergence of permanent settlements and their strengthening

The whole epoch is characterized by a much greater sedentary population than in the previous Mesolithic period, which is reflected in the housing construction. In the Neolithic settlements of different regions, many different dwellings were discovered, built from the materials that a person could get in the immediate environment.

So, in the southern regions there were buildings made of sun-dried raw bricks, in mountain settlements-of stone, in the forest zone-dugouts and semi-dugouts with structures made of wood, in the steppes and in the south of the forest — steppes-dwellings with a wicker frame, coated with clay, which have practically not changed structurally to this day (huts, daubs, etc.). The shapes and sizes of residential structures vary widely depending on the climatic conditions and cultural traditions of a particular region.

Since the Neolithic period, the first fortified settlements have appeared in the Middle East, which is associated with the emergence of productive forms of economy, the possibility of accumulating food reserves and the need to preserve and protect them. As a rule, these are settlements of farmers who, due to the specifics of their economic activity, have become settled. They were also engaged in domestic cattle breeding, which is typical for a system of integrated farming that provides a balanced diet of plant and animal proteins and carbohydrates.

If a settlement occupied a favorable position in relation to others, it could become the center of a small agricultural area and occupy a fairly important administrative and economic position: there could be stable places of exchange, crafts could be concentrated, religious buildings could be located; such settlements could eventually turn into proto-cities. In any case, the emergence of fortified Neolithic settlements indicates a complication of the social organization and the whole life of Neolithic tribes. The most striking settlements of this type should be considered Jericho, located near the Dead Sea (Israel), and Chatal Guyuk (Chatal Huyuk) in Anatolia (Turkey).

Chatal-Huyuk, photo of the first excavations.

Chatal-Huyuk (Turkey), photo of the first excavations.

Jericho (VII thousand BC), surrounded by walls seven meters high and having defensive towers, withstood, judging by the finds of stone arrows stuck in these walls from the outside, many sieges and attacks. The first Jericho was destroyed much later, already in the metal age, but almost immediately it was rebuilt and, having survived many vicissitudes of fate, still exists today.

Chatal-Guyuk (VI thousand BC) — one of the most interesting settlements of the Late Neolithic-Early Eneolithic. This is a village consisting of large adobe buildings, plastered and decorated with multicolored paintings, represented by zoomorphic and ornamental motifs. There are buildings that were not residential, but clearly public or religious in nature.

In Europe, fortified Neolithic settlements are extremely rare, they are mainly known in the southern regions and the Balkans.

Tools of labor

Stone tools of the Neolithic:

Stone tools of the Neolithic: 1-6 — arrowheads; 7 — knife; 8 — slashing weapon; 9-11 — tips; 12-14 — non geometric microliths (plate retouching); 15-18 — geometric microliths; 19-21 — scrapers; 22, 23, 27 — polished axes from oil shale, 24 — flint axe; 25, 26 — cores

The variety of economic activities of people in the Neolithic period determined the need for various tools. The main categories of stone products known in the Paleolithic and Mesolithic epochs are widely represented in all natural areas and, despite the new processing techniques, are easily recognizable. Such categories of tools as scrapers, incisors, punctures, scrapers, toothed and notched tools are widely distributed, which are necessary for various operations related to the dressing of leather, hides, sewing clothes and other household needs.

Among the techniques of stone processing, traditional methods continue to exist and develop — the most common are

  • double-sided obbivki technique,
  • jet retouching,
  • grinding,
  • sawing,
  • drilling.

The technique of sawing, which was previously used quite rarely, developed intensively in the Neolithic.

In the zones of development of productive forms of economy, tools associated with agriculture predominate: inserts of reaping knives and rarely preserved bases for them, sickles, hoes and picks. Where hunter-gatherer fishermen lived, there are usually a variety of hunting weapons, remnants of fishing gear, woodworking tools — axes, adzes, chisels.

Stone mining

With the growth of the population, the development and complexity of the economy, the need for stone tools increased and, accordingly, much more raw materials were needed for its manufacture. The main rock for this was still flint, although quartzite, obsidian, slate, jasper, jade, rock crystal, and other rocks were very widely used. The degree of settlement of certain areas was often directly dependent on the availability of affordable and high-quality stone raw materials. Often, workshops were located near its exits — places of extraction and, often, primary processing. Raw materials of good quality served as a subject of exchange between the population of fairly remote areas, which can be traced on the materials of different archaeological cultures of the Neolithic.

Neolithic sickle. Quintana Museum, Spain.

Neolithic sickle. Quintana Museum, Spain.

The source for meeting the increased human needs for flint was its mining – one of the first types of specialized activity — mining. To extract flint in large volumes, people built real mines, for which they punched deep pits-wells, and when such a well reached the flint layer, it was expanded with side tunnels. On the walls of the mines there are traces of supports and ceilings, blows of horn guns, soot from splinters and fat lamps. The tools themselves were also found: horn picks and pickaxes, whole deer antlers and their large fragments, which served as levers for separating pieces of rock in the mines. There are known finds of the remains of Neolithic “miners” who died in the collapse of adits. As a rule, pickaxes and kailas, baskets with stone raw materials, lamps, ceramic vessels, in which they took with them supplies of water or food, are found together with people. Huge mines with a length of more than a kilometer have been explored near Krasny Selo in Belarus, and extensive rock mining has been discovered on the Upper Volga and in the Novgorod region, in Poland and Slovakia. By the end of the Neolithic era, the extraction of high-quality raw materials and their exchange were widespread in many areas.

Improving the tools

Neolithic tesla. Preserved in the Edinburgh Museum, Austria.

Neolithic tesla. Preserved in the Edinburgh Museum, Austria.

In the Neolithic, especially in the advanced and late, the improvement of hunting weapons, fishing gear and other tools continues. The increased volume of woodworking and mining required the creation of large tools — axes, adzes, chisels, ploughs, picks, kaila, hammers are very widely distributed. In the southern regions, microlitic technology is further developed: inserts were used for the manufacture of hunting weapons, and for sickles and reaping knives.

In more northern, forested areas, large flint spearheads appear, and bone daggers with flint inserts continue to exist. Flint arrowheads are extremely diverse, especially the leaf-like, rootless forms are widespread.

In addition to stone raw materials for the manufacture of necessary things, other materials were widely used, especially bone and horn. Bone tools are numerous and diverse, represented by stable types of products made using fairly standard processing techniques. This includes items of hunting weapons, fishing gear, utensils, small plastic and jewelry.

Hunting, judging by the abundance of bone remains of wild animals in Neolithic settlements, was very productive. The main items of hunting weapons were bows of various sizes, arrows and spears. About the bows of the Neolithic give an idea of their findings in the burials. In their manufacture, horn pads could be used, which gave the bows additional elasticity and increased the impact force of the arrow. In the advanced and late Neolithic, many large stone leaf-shaped spearheads appear, as well as bone tips, which may indicate that spears were quite diverse. In addition, there were a variety of bone arrowheads, among which there are special forms with a blunt end, designed for hunting small fur-bearing animals. Undoubtedly, there were various traps, traps, snares.

Neolithic tools with handles made of bone and horn. Found in Yeshil Huyuk, Izmir province, Turkey.

Neolithic tools with handles made of bone and horn. Found in Yeshil Huyuk, Izmir province, Turkey.

The importance of fishing in the Neolithic period is increasing. This is evidenced by the mass finds of tools associated with this type of economic activity. It should be noted that fishing gear is extremely skilful-it is nets, a variety of hooks and harpoons, vershas, complex structures for catching fish (backwaters). During the excavations of the sites of the Baltic States and the Neolithic North, numerous wicker and wooden traps used for fishing, the remains of fishing nets and bone needles for knitting them were found. Anglers of the Angara region used large stone sinkers in the form of fish with two heads (the so-called janusovidnye).


Weaving is becoming widespread in the areas of the producing economy. This is evidenced by the numerous finds of weights for weaving mills and spinning wheels. Spinning wheel-small round (ring-shaped) products made of soft rocks of stone, clay or other materials, which were impaled on the spindle to give it stability and uniformity of rotation.

The spindle was used for spinning and winding threads, which were made from plant fibers obtained first from wild plants — nettle, hemp, etc., and then from cultivated ones — castor, cotton, in the late Neolithic — and flax. The threads were stretched on a primitive loom mill and secured with weights, the cross threads were stretched by a simple shuttle. The transition to the creation of a denser material-textiles-was prepared by all previous practice, since since the Paleolithic people have used a variety of plant materials for weaving and knitting.

Ceramic tableware

A culture vessel of pit-comb ceramics. Neolithic. Russia.

A culture vessel of pit-comb ceramics. Neolithic. Russia.

Ceramic tableware, one of the most important inventions of ancient man, appears and is widely distributed in the Neolithic era. The origin of the pottery cannot be linked to any one center; it seems to have occurred independently in a number of places. Its appearance meant for Neolithic societies a revolution in the way of cooking food and storing its reserves.

Ceramics everywhere were made from ceramic dough, which was based on local clays. Various impurities were added to it-thinners, which protected the products from cracking during firing. The composition of such impurities was different: it could be talcum powder, asbestos, sand, crushed seashell, gravel, various plant residues. Different admixtures were characteristic of certain territories and time periods. The use of certain impurities became a local cultural tradition over time.

It should be emphasized that among agricultural tribes, such an admixture was usually the straw of domesticated cereals. After the preparation of the ceramic dough (clay + thinning agent), the manual production of the vessel began, mainly in two ways — by knocking out or using the technique of sticking (tape method). The last method consisted in the sequential attachment to each other, rings or spirals, tapes or bundles-nalepov, increasing the height of the product. When the desired shape was reached, the product was smoothed, ornamented and fired. The ornament was applied using a variety of comb stamps, spatulas, sticks, tubes, etc. In addition, painting with mineral paints was used. The ornament, as a rule, covered the outer surface of the vessel in whole or in part, with zones, but sometimes its elements also passed to the inner surface. As a rule, the ornament emphasizes the upper and most convex parts of the vessel, as well as the bottom.

A clay vessel from China. Neolithic.

Neolithic clay vessel. China.

The problem of roasting is one of the most important in the manufacture of ceramics, since high-quality roasting requires high temperatures and uniform heating, which is quite difficult to achieve with a conventional fire. However, all early pottery is burned on the bonfire, and only in the developed and late Neolithic appear primitive pottery furnaces. Pottery made on a potter’s wheel appears very late, during the transition to the Eneolithic, and only in the proto-urban civilizations of the Near East or Egypt.

The ornamentation of ceramic dishes is one of the most important signs by which the archaeological cultures of the Neolithic are distinguished, and the cultural belonging of a particular complex is determined. The Neolithic vessels of the northern regions differ sharply in shape, manufacturing technology, and ornamentation from those of the southern zone inhabited by farmers and pastoralists. The ornamentation of the ceramics of the forest zone is characterized by relief — drawn, pinned, indented-ornaments. In the settlements of early farmers, painted ceramics are usually present. However, these differences are not so clear in the border areas-due to cultural contacts or the mixing of the ancient population.

Ceramic ornamental motifs and compositions are a valuable source for studying the spiritual concepts of the Neolithic period.

Neolithic Spiritual Culture

Changes in the economic life of society in the Neolithic era led to a change in worldview, spiritual ideas, which are reflected in religious rites and beliefs, funeral practices and art. The Neolithic era, as well as the entire Stone Age, is characterized by ideas associated with totemism and animism. They were expressed in various cults of the forces of nature, which were personified in the images of all kinds of spirits of the animal and plant world, heavenly and earthly elements.


A Neolithic burial site in Chatal Huyuk, found in 2012 under the floor of a house.

A Neolithic burial site in Chatal Huyuk, found in 2012 under the floor of a house.

Interesting data for the study of the spiritual culture of Neolithic communities are provided by burial grounds and individual burials, of which a lot is known for this time. For the entire epoch, but especially for the developed and late Neolithic, it should be noted that, in comparison with previous epochs, the “standardization” of the funeral rite is noticeable, which is expressed in the stable forms of burial structures, in the poses of the buried, and in the sets of equipment accompanying them. Apparently, this may indicate the presence of a fairly stable system of ideas of the worldview order. Naturally, they were different in societies leading different economic lives.

Burials of farmers, as a rule, are confined to residential objects, often performed under the floors of dwellings, which indicates the presence of a cult of ancestors-patrons, defenders of the community. Due to the small size of the dwellings, such burials are never mass. Such burials are known to almost all ancient farmers — in Mesopotamia and Anatolia, in the Balkans and in Central Asia, in Central and South-Eastern Europe. The postures of the buried can most often be described as the position of a person sleeping on his side. The degree of contortion of the skeleton and the position of the hands, as well as the composition of the accompanying equipment, which almost always consists of ceramic vessels and jewelry, can vary slightly. Analysis of a large number of burials does not allow us to talk about the existence of property inequality, only in the late Neolithic there are rare burials with “rich” inventory. It can be assumed that this phenomenon is associated with the allocation of some socially significant members of the collective-leaders, ministers of cults, etc.

Funerary monuments of the steppe and forest-steppe zones of Eastern Europe are represented by burial grounds of the Dnieper-Donets culture, the so-called burial grounds of the Mariupol type (although the Mariupol burial ground itself belongs to the Eneolithic). These large, apparently ancestral burial grounds are structures in the form of long trenches, in which, sometimes in several layers, up to a hundred people were buried, lying stretched out on their backs. The buried ones were covered with bright red ochre. In the accompanying inventory, there are many ornaments in the form of beads made of mother-of-pearl plates, bone jewelry, polished hatchets and adzes. It is possible that over such burial complexes there were tombstones made of wood, reeds or other plant materials.

Burials of hunters-fishermen-gatherers of the forest zone are divided into two groups:

  • these are individual burials made in parking lots, and
  • burial grounds taken outside of them.

The most famous burial grounds are Sakhtysh, Tamula, Zviyeniki in the forest zone. Individual burials are much more common and ubiquitous in this area. The funeral rite of forest hunters and fishermen who left different archaeological cultures is quite similar — it is a corpse-laying in ground pits, where the poses of the buried vary from straightened to crouched. The burial inventory is not numerous, it is stone and bone tools and hunting weapons, jewelry made of shells or drilled fangs of animals, occasionally there are small zoomorphic figures made of various materials. Weapons and jewelry were placed in both men’s and women’s burials. Pottery finds are extremely rare. It should be noted that the study of a large number of Neolithic burials of the forest zone allows us to say that more numerous inventory is found in the burials of middle-aged people, both men and women, the burials of other age groups are poorer. Apparently, this age group was the most important in the life of society, which was reflected in the funeral rite.

Neolithic Art

Numerous monuments of Neolithic art allow us to trace certain features in the worldview of the population of various geographical zones and regions.

The art of farmers

In the southern regions, where the tribes that had already moved to productive forms of economy lived, fertility cults were more widespread, having a genetic connection with the maternal-tribal veneration of housewives and guardians of the hearth, mothers-progenitors, known even in the Paleolithic. However, in the Neolithic small plastic, the image of a woman undergoes strong changes, becoming more and more schematic and even abstract. Female figurines of Southern European agricultural cultures are extremely simplified and often look like rods, which are marked with symbolic signs of gender.

Solar (solar) cults, which were especially important for farmers, should also be considered associated with fertility cults, since the economic and calendar cycle of their work was timed to coincide with the annual cycle of the sun’s movement. Their presence is indicated by numerous solar signs, images of a solar boat traveling on the sea, stories known from later myths about the struggle of the sun with monsters. Many of these images and symbols are also found on the monuments of fine art of the forest zone. Researchers believe that this is the result of cross-cultural exchanges and influences.

Some mythological motifs, known to us from ancient written and ethnographic sources, basically go back to the primitive era, which is confirmed by the similarity and repeatability of some plots and images.

The art of Neolithic agricultural tribes is represented by a small number of samples, among which stands out

  • monumental painting,
  • small plastic art and
  • applied art.

Among the monuments of rock art, the paintings in the Zaraut-Say gorge in the south of Uzbekistan are well known. Zaraut-Sai’s drawings are made in ochre. Large stone blocks in small depressions depict scenes of hunting with dogs for bulls, gazelles, goats, wild boars. The hunters are armed with bows, axes, and boomerangs. One of the most interesting subjects is the images of people, apparently also hunters, in unusual clothing — wide cone-shaped capes and “ostrich” masks. Images of people in animal or bird masks are also available in other regions of Central Asia.

Neolithic figurines of mother goddesses from different regions of the world. 5300-4200 BC

Neolithic figurines of mother goddesses from different regions of the world. 5300-4200 BC

Thousands of images carved on stone and painted with ochre were found in the grottos of the Kamennaya Grave hill in the Azov Sea region. On the ceilings of the grottoes there are many images of bulls, deer, predators, occasionally people and traces of human feet. They are accompanied by geometric patterns and solar signs. Like Zaraut-Sai, the Stone Grave was an ancient sanctuary that existed for many millennia from the Mesolithic to the Bronze Age.

Small-scale plastic farming is represented in a number of settlements in the Far East, the Balkans, and Central Asia. Very significant in this sense are the clay figurines of the Jeytun culture, which are made of both baked and unfired clay. Small figures of animals and people are quite sketchy. Often only fragments are found — the heads or torsos of figurines. Often they have holes and depressions made by a sharp object-it is possible that these are traces of magical rites.

The art of hunter-fishers and gatherers

The worldview of hunters, fishermen and gatherers of the forest zone, judging by the monuments of art, were different. Numerous and varied images of animals were apparently associated with the rites of hunting magic. Examples of monumental art, probably, were confined to particularly revered places, objects of small plastic could serve as amulets-amulets. Judging by the images, the largest animals — elk and bear, as well as waterfowl-were the most revered.

The rock paintings and engravings of the Neolithic tribes of Northern Eurasia are represented by numerous groups of images, often called scribbles or petroglyphs, which were located on the rocky surfaces of the banks of rivers and reservoirs. Such monuments are widely known on the coasts of Scandinavia, Karelia, the White Sea, Lake Onega, in the valley of the Lena, Angara, Tom rivers (the oldest layer of images), in the Amur region. Sometimes fantastic creatures were depicted together with the animal, apparently, spirits-patrons of hunting or owners of animals.

The Angara and Lena scribbles present remarkable images of moose. Tomsk scribbles are carved or carved on smooth stones near the bank of the Tom River. The older part of the images, originally stamped with dots (picketing), was later reinforced and re – drawn with lines. Among the oldest images, figures of “dancing” little men stand out: people with their legs wide apart and bent at the knees, as if crouching in a dance. Along with the figures of people on the stones, the contours of human feet and geometric shapes are visible.

The petroglyphs of the White Sea and Lake Onega, which give an idea of the complex mental world of their creators, can be considered a brilliant example of monumental Neolithic rock art. They are located on coastal slabs and boulders, sometimes grouped in compositions.

The petroglyphs, which include hundreds of images, represent scenes of land and sea hunting, images of real animals, waterfowl, fish, as well as fantastic creatures and abstract symbols. Very expressive figures of skiers chasing prey, or hunters swimming in a large boat and harpooning large fish. Known images of moose, waterfowl (swan), fish, made in a concise realistic manner. Fantastic creatures are anthropomorphic, perhaps they represent some deities or spirits-patrons and owners of animals. An expressive example of such images is the two-meter figure of the “demon” from the Besov Cape on Lake Onega.

Small plastic is represented throughout the forest zone of Eurasia by zoomorphic and anthropomorphic images made of flint, clay, bone, horn, wood, and amber.

Zoomorphic images are more numerous, including images of elk, bear, beaver, marten, fox, fish and snakes, but a variety of birds, both hog and waterfowl, predominate significantly. Waterfowl figurines are especially common, which may reflect their important commercial importance for the population of the forest zone. Known wooden ladles with a handle, which are the image of a bird. The image of a waterfowl became the subject not only of small plastics, but also of vessels decorated with a frieze of a string of ducks in the later stages of cultures with comb-and-pit ceramics.

The bear from the Samus burial ground, IV thousand BC.

bear from the Samus burial ground, IV thousand BC.

Images of the head of a moose are one of the most common motifs of the design of the pommel. Bear images are relatively rare. The stone (sandstone) figurine of a bear from the West Siberian Late Neolithic Samus burial ground is surprisingly artistic and expressive. The bear stands with its front paws folded on its chest, the muzzle is made in relief.

Anthropomorphic images, as a rule, are very schematic, the facial features, the details of the figure are indicated very conditionally.

Fine plastic is found both in the cultural layers of settlements and in burials, which probably indicates its diverse use as religious objects, as well as jewelry and amulets.

Neolithic applied art is represented by a rich array of ornaments, applied mainly to ceramics, as well as to bone and wood products.

Brief conclusions

Thus, in the Neolithic era — at the end of the Stone Age — humanity as a whole took a very stable position on the ways of developing the world: all geographical zones were populated and the corresponding economic systems of nature management and life support were developed, which were reflected in various forms of worldview ideas and social relations.

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