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Asian African and Australian Neolithic TechnologyMultiple Chapters

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Neolithic Tools

Zhang, J., Harbottle, G., Wang, C. & Kong, Z. (1999). Oldest playable musical instruments found at Jiahu early Neolithic site, China. Nature. Vol. 401 (23 Sept 1999) 366-368.

This article reports on the findings of playable multi-note instruments dated 7000 BC to 5700 BC. These included six flutes made from the ulnae of the red-crowned crane and have multiple holes. These 9000-year-old instruments not only show evidence of tool use in their construction, but play an important role in terms of Chinese cultural context, and serve as evidence that entertainment was something these cultures valued and were willing to expend energy on the creation of tools for.

Liu, L, Field, J., Fullagar, R., Bestel, S. and Chen, X. (2010). What did grinding stones grind? New light on early Neolithic subsistence economy in the Middle Yellow River Valley, China. University of Wollongong. Retrieved April 19, 2016 from http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1684&context=scipapers

Grinding stones are one of the earliest examples of technological development, and this paper explores the purpose that they served. They were mainly used to process acorns. Such tools were one of the developments along the path of progressing from hunter-gatherer activities to farming -- gathering acorns, but processing them with tools more suited to a settled environment. This is from the Peiligang culture, which came after the culture described in Zhang (1999) that made the flutes.

Lu, L. (1998). The microblade tradition in China: Regional chronologies and significance in the transition to Neolithic. Asian Perspectives Vol. 37 (1) 84-112.

This paper discusses the traditional of microblades that spread across northeastern Asia and into North America from the late Pleistocene into the Holocene. Microblades were developed by the peoples in this region to perform a variety of tasks. The people provides an overview of these earliest tools and tells the story of their transition from pre-history to Neolithic times. These blades were generally part of the hunter-gatherer tradition, but would later evolve into more complex tools.

Hazarika, M. (2006) Neolithic culture of Northeast India: A recent perspective on the origins of pottery and agriculture. Ancient Asia. Retrieved April 18, 2016 from http://ancient-asia-journal.com/articles/10.5334/aa.06104/

This paper discusses pottery and agricultural tools in this region, which lies at the crossroads of more important Neolithic cultures. Tools were developed to assist with rice agriculture in particular. The paper makes a modest contribution to this study.

Akhtar, S. & Dhanani, M. (2015). Discoveries of Paleolithic and Neolithic artefacts in and around Karachi, Pakistan. Sindh University Research Journal. Vol. 47 (3) 575-580.

This paper covers Neolithic tool tradition in Sindh. These including a variety of flint tools and hand axes, again highlighting the role that the development of different tools played in the transition from hunter-gatherer lifestyles to farming. These findings also help trace the migration of early Paleolithic hunters out of Africa, via Arabia, and eastward into Asia.

Healey, E. & Campbell, S. (2014). Producing adornment: Evidence of different levels of expertise in the production of obsidian items of adornment at two late Neolithic communities in northern Mesopotamia. Journal of Lithic Studies. Vol 1. (2)

This paper examines the production of obsidian adornments. The authors found evidence that different sites had differing levels of proficiency in production, informing about the diffusion rates of new technologies in the Neolithic. Further, they highlight the cultural context, for example why tools were developed during this period. Adornment goes along with the flutes in China as examples of developing tools not for survival, but for cultural purposes.

Gessner, A. (2014) Shared painting: The practice of decorating late Neolithic pottery in northern Mesopotamia. Agency and Identity in the Ancient Near East: New Paths Forward. Routledge.

This paper highlights the development of paints and the technology by which paints would be applied to pottery (i.e. brushes). This has more value as a study of cultural context (why decoration was important) and in how people shared learning during this time, than with respect to the technology itself.

Drechsler, P., Berthold, C., al-Naimi, F. & Eichmann, R. (2013). Ceremonial objects or household items? Non-destructive studies on three Neolithic axes from Qatar. Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy. Vol. 24 (2) 119-124.

The authors examine axes, and found that hematite was used in their production. This shows that materials were being traded, as there was no source of hematite in the region, and it also indicates that the artefacts had a strong ceremonial value. This again provides some cultural context.

Wright, K. (2014). Domestication and inequality Households, corporate groups and food processing tools at Neolithic Catalhoyuk. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology. Vol. 33 (March 2014) 1-33.

This article examines tools at Catalhoyuk, perhaps the largest Neolithic settlement for clues about what tools were used, and how they were transferred among the society. The author notes that while many tools were common to all households, certain tools such as millstones were less common due to their size and one presumes the acquisition cost. Some households had more storage tools, suggesting some level of inequality among the people, and tool dispersion indicates increasing specialization (i.e. skill at working with specific tools on specific tasks). This is a valuable paper looking at tool development during this era.

Fullagar, R., Stephenson, B., Hayes, E. (2016).Grinding grounds: Function and distribution of grinding stones from an open site in the Pilbara, WA. Quaternary International. In press.

This paper investigates Neolithic technologies in Australia, focused on grinding stones.. These were used primarily for the grinding of seeds, but there were also animal products ground at some sites. Tubers were also ground. These stones were essential to subsistence in the region, and there may have been temporary settlements around them.

The first thesis statement is that the development of Neolithic tools was relatively similar up until the mid-Holocene, but that differences in technological advancement emerged from that point. The studies examined thus far indicate fairly wide geographic dispersion of things like grinding stones and small tools, but more limited dispersion of complex tools during the Neolithic period. Australia, for example, did not see much development beyond this stage. Other areas that would later on become technologically-advanced, such as China, seemed slow to move beyond basic Neolithic tools, at least in comparison to cultures like that of Mesopotamia

There are two main counters to this. One is to accept the proposition but to seek out explanatory factors. The other is to argue that gaps in technological development were not that great until well after the Neolithic period. How long it takes a culture to transition out of the Neolithic and into the Bronze Age, for example, was relevant. If there were some difference in cultures, those differences were temporary. For example, knowledge sharing might have been slow, but it did happen. And cultures like Catalhoyuk did not survive in the long run, no matter what additional developments might have occurred there.

The second thesis statement is that urban growth is associated with technological advancement. There is good logic to this, in that urban growth cannot occur without specialization. Specialization is enabled by multiple tools, and increasingly complex ones. In basic agrarian societies, tools were simple that anybody would have been able to use them with skill, and since people were living on a subsistence basis this was probably the case. At Catalhoyuk, the largest Neolithic urban settlement, there is evidence of both specialization and some evidence of wealth stratification. As such, it is worth exploring the link between tool technology, specialization and urban development in Neolithic societies.

The counter to this hypothesis is that urban growth was not associated with technological development. The key here is that there are hypothetical links to these two processes that have not been fully explored. Whether there is a causal relationship or not is not really known, so one side can argue that there is a causal relationship, the other that no such relationship exists. Even among those who believe that there is a causal relationship, the direction of that relationship would need to be established.

The third hypothesis is that tools were developed for a variety of reasons. Human must have had an interest in things like beauty and music before there were tools available to facilitate them. The Chinese flutes and the obsidian adornments of Mesopotamia show that Neolithic cultures had values beyond mere subsistence. Technological advancement occurred in part as a way to satisfy these cultural and aesthetic needs. If most tools were for hunting, agricultural and food processing, that is logical, but the early evidence of tool development for other purposes leads one to believe that Neolithic people, and most likely their ancestors, had other values. Such values would therefore be an inherent part of the human condition.

The counter to this would be that tools were largely developed for agriculture. While other uses were noted, those uses came about after the tool was developed. Making adornments and instruments might have been done with tools that were developed for other purposes. In other words, the need for instruments and adornments may not have driven technological development, but… [END OF PREVIEW]

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