The Neolithic period extends between 8000 and 4500 BC, though many parts of the world would experience its characteristics at a later date; indeed, many parts of the world are still living in the "Neolithic" in the game's present day. The period as discussed here describes the initial advancement of technology and culture as it occurred during the time period specified.
The era marked a significant transition from hunter-gatherer societies to agriculturally settled communities. The domestication of wild plants and animals led to the establishment of a complex social structure, and the gradual development of technologies such as pottery, weaving and metalworking. This era also laid the foundation for the growth of civilisation in different parts of the globe.
The early Neolithic saw the cultivation of plants like wheat, barley, rice and maize. The domestication of goats, sheep, cattle and swine allowed for a more stable and reliable source of food, spurring population growth. Pottery began to emerge around 6000 BC, with vessels used for cooking, food storage and water transportation. This led to innovations in food processing, preservation and social bartering. About this same time, cloth weaving became more sophisticated, widening choices in clothing, baskets and other items.
Late in the period, stone continued to be the primary material for making tools, though these became more specialised implements, such as sickles for harvesting and polished axes for woodworking and construction. Flint "knapping" (striking the flint to give it a flat face) techniques improved, resulting in sharper and more durable tools. Arrowheads and spears allowed for more efficient hunting and defense. Also in the late Neolithic, mud-brick and wattle-and-daub structures appeared, offering improved shelter ("hovels") that improved protection from the elements. Other advances were made in ceremonial and ritual activities, trade and exchange, and art.
- Main Article: Humans in the Mesolithic-Neolithic Period
Scattered human cultures continued to grow in isolation throughout the northern hemisphere, along a fertile zone that promoted the growth of certain domesticable crops. Most of these would form no long-lasting significant culture, due primarily to the lack of archeological remains left behind.
After reaching its height in the 9th millennium, the Natufian culture in the Levant gradually faded away, becoming replaced by groups of isolated, indistinct entities of which little is known. While the Levant would see the rise of important city-states and kingdoms, especially with the onset of the Chalcolithic period, during the Neolithic the communities here remained scattered structures moving slowly towards surplus populations and trade.
Çatalhöyük, in Anatolia, would grow into a powerful agricultural settlement after 7400 BC. Growing into a large town, the culture here would last nearly 2,000 years — but it would be abandoned because the agricultural progress during the Neolithic simply wasn't sufficient to support large settlements. The spread of disease and limited sanitation, with increasing dependence on fragile and thin trade, eventually disrupted the patterns of life here as it did the Natufian culture. Similar situations occurred at Jiahu in Henan, China, and with the Hemudu culture in Zhejiang. Human interchange and culture wasn't efficient enough, or cooperative enough, to sustain these sorts of long-lasting civilisations. There were, however, two exceptions.
Spanning roughly from 5500 BC and into the Chalcolithic, the Ubaid established a complex agricultural community in Mesopotamia. Pottery developed during this period was distinctive and elaborately decorated, representing an advancement compared to the typical earthenware produced in Neolithic cultures. Engaging in trade and cultural exchange with other peoples, the Ubaid imported goods, including lapis lazuli and mother-of-pearl, from distant regions such as Bactria and Baluchistan. Their belief system was animistic and incorporated some building of temples and shrines. Together these elements and others formed the basis of later Mesopotamian cultures, specifically the Sumerian.
- Main Article: Egyptian History
In Neolithic times, there were perhaps 40 agricultural communities, strung together like beads along the ribbon of the Nile River north of the First Cataract. By about 5000 BC, Egypt had been unified to some extent into two kingdoms: one in the delta (Lower Egypt) and one in the valley (Upper Egypt). This era witnessed the emergence of numerous cultural, social, and technological foundations that would later shape the civilization of Ancient Egypt.
- Main Article: Ancient Beleriand
Following a long dark period of disbandment, it wasn't until the Neolithic period that elves in the New World began to transition towards agrarian societies. Due, in part, to a dangerous decline in birthrates, coupled with poor options in food supply and the disappearance of large animals, elvish society faced a near-perilous situation by the 8th millennium. However, adjustments in diet, discoveries in herbal medications and the development of a cooperative culture, both within their own communities and with nearby human natives, elvish culture began to coalesce in numerous small villages along the Sirion River (called the "Mississippi" by others).
Reacquiring knowledge of archery, and learning to manage vast herds of deer in the forests, the elvish population increased throughout the Neolithic. By the late period, around 4500 BC, winter elves in the north had begun to repopulate the old Beringian lands, forming bonds that would later develop into the Anduin people.
- Main Article: Dwarven History
Cultivation of the Khath on the Upper Yenisey River rapidly increased Dwarven populations after 5000 BC, as the first, albeit crude, copper-and-tin smelting followed investigations into mining and metals. This technology would not be shared and would need to be rediscovered elsewhere. The Sayan Mountains initiated the search for silver and gold placer deposits that would drive the expansion of cultures in Tuvath and Rithdome.
- Main Article: Gnomish History
In the mid-Neolithic, elements of pre-Vepsian culture produced various gnomish migrations from the mountain ranges of Scandinavia into Ulthua, south into the Central Highlands of the Sarmatic Plain (Scythian lands) and as far east as the Zhiguli Mountains above the Volga River. Ostensibly, this was a search for natural placer deposits, which became important in Gnomish art and religious belief. Despite this spread, gnomish culture would remain remarkably homogeneous in nature.
Competition between gnomes and the gnolls of the Gunda-Gaa culture would remain minimal until the Chalcolithic period. The exchange of knowledge between the Gnomes and many northern peoples, both human and otherwise, led to significant advancements in grain production and the domestication of numerous formerly inedible or poisonous fruits and berries. This, in turn, resulted in considerable population growth into the 5th millennium.
- Main Article: Halflingen History
Eastward migrations produced groups of herding and agrarian cultures throughout Doggerland that thrived for 15 centuries, with numerous permanent villages and hamlets. This culture would be threatened by rising sea levels that began around 6500 BC, at which time the land would also begin to submerge. Within a few centuries, the Doggerland culture would disappear, as halflings took to the east in boats, crossing the North Sea to settle in southern parts of Scandinavia, notably Jutland, Terra Scania and Vestfold.
- Main Article: Ancient Jaxalla
Along the middle Yenisey basin, significant social development was taking place among scattered hobgoblin cultures, creating a larger and more complex form of social hierarchy known as the Jaxalla culture. The leadership structures within this part of Siberia would pose a lasting threat in later millennia, with some elements persisting until the present day.