The Neolithic Revolution made it only as far as east Texas, among the Caddo people. This was before the immigration of Europeans. The Neolithic Revolution is also called the Agriculture Revolution. It arrived earlier in Mexico, the Mississippi/Missouri area and in South America.
The Neolithic Revolution dates to about 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent around Iran. It marked the transition from a nomadic forager lifestyle to a sedentary village lifestyle based on grain cultivation and animal domestication.
Many other dramatic cultural changes accompanied the Neolithic revolution, for example the development of the first language, the Indo-European dialect, in the area centered on modern Turkey. The first writing system, cuneiform, was also invented there. The Neolithic Revolution happened in other places around the world independently and at slightly later times: in Mesoamerica about 8,000 years ago.
Although revolution might seem to imply a rapid transition, in fact, the time scale for the spread of farming to displace foraging took thousands of years. Farmers and hunter/foragers coexisted in Europe for 2,000 years until the foragers were replaced.
There was another big transition in Europe that happened well before the Neolithic Revolution: the extinction of the Neanderthals by about 30,000 years ago. Neanderthals had lived in Europe and Asia for three hundred thousand years. Homo sapiens moved slowly into Europe about 40,000 years ago. So these two Homo species coexisted in Europe for about 10,000 years.
At the end of that time, the Homo sapiens population had increased by a factor of ten and the Neanderthal were extinct. Homo sapiens had out-competed the Neanderthal for the available resources, possibly due to better tool use in foraging. Another big population increase for Homo sapiens would accompany the Neolithic Revolution ten thousand years later.
Toward the end of the last Ice Age, 20,000 years ago, hunter–gatherer bands of fifteen to fifty people roamed the largely treeless plains of the eastern Mediterranean. They eked out an existence on tubers and nuts and hunted bison, deer and horses. Then as the Ice Age was coming to a close, the weather turned warmer and wetter and trees began to grow amid patches of wild barley, wheat and rye.
Slowly, the foragers began to settle down in more permanent camps and supplement their foraging diet with wild cereals. Slowly, these foragers began to increase the yield of cereals by sowing seeds and irrigating, so much so that they could build a surplus to last all winter. And in time, they domesticated the cow, the goat, sheep and pigs. All this by about 8,000 years ago. Villages began to grow and multiply. This was retrospectively called the Neolithic Revolution.
Although the actual beginning of spoken language is still under study, the Indo-European language seems to have originated in the region of modern Turkey. The surplus of food allowed specialization in the villages and cities, like herders, farmers and artisans, even scribes, priests and kings. Something else happened from the concentration of manpower in towns: architecture, engineering and the building of stone monuments, like Stonehenge.
Agriculture spread to England by about 8,500 years ago. Although some stone monoliths had begun to spring up at the start of the Neolithic Revolution in the Near East as early as 10,000 years ago, England became the site of numerous rings of upright stones, like Stonehenge.
But the earliest of these was on the distant Orkney Islands, off the north coast of Scotland. Orkney’s Ring of Brogdar is dated to 5,000 years ago and may have served as the template for Stonehenge, which was started about 400 years later.
No other Texas Indian tribe adopted agriculture like the Caddo corn growers in the 1700s. So, the Neolithic Revolution eventually arrived in Texas after 9,000 years and manifested itself also in the building of huge earth mounds.
Herndon Williams is affiliated with the Bayside Historical Society and the Refugio County Historical Commission. He is the author of the book, “Texas Gulf Coast Stories”, published in December 2010 by The History Press. His second book, “Eight Centuries on the Texas Frontier”, was published in May 2013. His third book, “Luju and the Curious Wolf Cub” was published in 2019.