Effects of Domestication of Animals on Neolithic People

First let's review what the Neolithic or New Stone Age was. It was a period of time after humans learned to farm but before they figured out how to make tools out of metal instead of stone. Life was easier than it was before farming, but it was still difficult. Neolithic societies were not really true civilizations yet.

Imagine you are a Neolithic person. You likely hunt for your meat, but you also grow wheat, barley, corn, or rice as your main food. As a result of having a more steady food supply from farming, your population goes up. That's great, but now you need more food to feed the growing population!

Now, let's define “domestication of animals.” Civilizations that domesticate animals tame and train animals for their own personal use. One example is having dogs for pets, personal protection, or hunting. Dogs that are domesticated are accustomed to being around people and can be trained by humans to do a lot of different things. Another example is the domestication of herd animals such as cattle and sheep. These animals are kept for their wool, skins, meat, and milk. Large animals can also be used to do physical work like carrying things or plowing the field.

Okay, now imagine you are a Neolithic person with domesticated animals. You have a nice corn patch to provide the main part of your diet, but you also have dogs that make hunting easier, and you have a herd of sheep that you can use for food as well. If you have a horse or other animal that you use to plow your field, you can produce even more crops than before! You have more food now, and your society can continue to grow.

At some point, your society is producing so much food that the population can keep growing, and you still have food left over. When this happened in the Neolithic Age it had huge effects. Neolithic people with domesticated animals could spend even less time producing food. More people could focus on other things like developing writing, government, and religion, inventing wheels and other technologies, and figuring out how to make things out of the shiny stuff that comes out of the ground.

In other words, the combination of farming and domestication of animals helped humans advance to the Copper Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, and beyond. Animal domestication was another step on the road to civilization. It's amazing what humans can do when they don't have to spend all of their time searching for their next meal!