Neolithic Society



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Neolithic people had a completely different life experience compared to their hunting predecessors from the time of the late Paleolithic period. This diversity was very strong, and its cause was linked to the revolution in the home and in the society. Revolution occurred at the same time with the life of established small collectives, villages or hamlets.

Excitement and uncertainty of hunting lifestyle was replaced by everyday difficult jobs on the land, which demanded various restraint and far greater discipline. Significant changes in relations between people happened with the acceptance of a new way of living.

One of the most important factors that channel all these social changes refers to the right of ownership on land or cattle. The hard labour on the land or in a family crib placed in people a sense of ownership. Irrigation of land required a special kind of collective effort of the wider community, and with all that, it also required a social control. The result was creation of extraordinary living and working conditions as well as increased development of society as a whole. The first ownership was family ownership. Therefore, the right over land and its products were common, equally for all family members, i.e. a large number of parents, brothers, sisters and so on.

Neolithic pottery
Neolithic pottery

Later on, there was a transformation of ownership and the creation of so-called individual possession. It is believed that personal ownership was introduced, when there was mixing of two or more people. Assets such as houses, tools, weapons, pottery, jewellery and other miscellaneous items of new skills, and above all, pottery and weaving skills certainly were ownership of a small family or an individual. In villages and small centers suddenly begins to develop a new way of life tied to the street, where people gather to see and learn what and how someone know to work or do.

It seems that the original Neolithic way of life was very peaceful and there were no war activities. This is clearly seen in numerous Neolithic villages, which did not have any protection, like fortification in order to defend themselves from enemy attack. True, in some places, there were found remains of fences and channels, whose purpose was to protect the village population of predatory beasts. Jericho tower with its walls leads to the conclusion that certain wealthy citizens had to defend themselves from all those people, which were not permanently settled. Those people looted and destructed a variety of material goods. This will be very much present in historical times.

It is assumed that the main reason of peacefulness in the early Neolithic communities is contained in the fact that there was enough good – fertile land, which was available to everyone who wanted it. That is how each new generation was able to find all the necessary and favorable conditions for life. Feisty ideals arise with the growth of the population and because of the shortage of new land, which was necessary for survival for food.

Organization of Neolithic communities

The government and its organization in the Neolithic communities were not elaborated enough, because there are no reliable archaeological testimonies.
It is also difficult to prove that among the leaders of the Neolithic communities there were priests and priestesses. Although based on the number of family tombs it can be concluded that these people had highly developed religious consciousness, and therefore the need for missionaries, that is, consecrated persons whose influence on the communities was great.

A new way of economy, which is based on agriculture and livestock breeding, has influenced the further development of social relations, and with that creation of new forms of social organization. The tribes, in the Neolithic period, brought together the phratry (brotherhood) or clans and tribes, and after that, the creation of the first tribal alliances came to the scene. In the favorable climate conditions and in conditions of exogamous marriages tribal communities rapidly expanded. Therefore, the life and staying in one place become very difficult and uncertain to the end. Thus, from the original maternal gender-tribes began to separate groups of close relatives, creating new tribal communities that have settled down in the new premises. Although separated, they still maintained commercial ties with the native tribe, preserving their common name, language and customs.

The first fraternities (brotherhood) were endogamous and later exogamous. Mothers and daughters created fraternities of tribes. There were usually four, and often more fraternities. The oldest tribes were consisted of only two tribes, later they had four or eight and at the end, they had an unlimited number of tribes. These were much more advanced form of tribal community organisation with division on the fraternities. Such division was present in North American Iroquois Indians, Hyde, Tsimshian and others. Their gender and fraternities were named after birds, fishes and a variety of other animals. Each of the mentioned fraternities unified three totemic genders. Fraternities were firmly connected with each other. Marriage outside the group was valid for all the members of the fraternities with the same name. For example, a man from the fraternity eagle tribe Tsimshian could not marry a woman, which comes from the same fraternity – Iroquois tribe.

During the war, members of the fraternities, which had the same name were not captured or killed. In building their social organization, the American Indians did not manage to go beyond the tribal alliances. The only exception is Iroquois tribal traditions with about 20,000 members.

It is assumed that management within the tribal community was democratic. Among the members of the community was present full economical and legal equality, on which constantly took care of those who had the power. Supreme authority was parliament, which was consisted of all adults, men and women with the same voting rights. At tribal councils, leaders of tribal communities and commanders of the army were elected and replaced by someone else. Leaders of the gender were usually elected among the most experienced and oldest members of tribal communities and from brothers, sons or close relatives of the founder of that particular gender. The function of the gender leader was not hereditary. The power of the gender leader’s was limited. In material terms, they did not differ from their relatives with whom they were obliged to share even their prey. However, advices from the leaders were respected. Apart from the parliament, there was a council of gender, which were composed of its oldest members. Leaders have always agreed with the views, opinions and demands of gender council. Phratry and tribal council were made of gender leaders and commanders of the army. Decisions of Council had to be unanimous.

Councils were involved in regulation of blood revenge, they made decision about accepting strangers into a particular tribe, and they participated in the organization and implementation of tribal feasts, games and various competitions. The tribal council decided when to commence the war or when to make peace. They also decided about intertribal relations. Meetings of the council were public. All members of the tribe could attend these meetings. They could even take part in the discussions, but they could not make decisions.

Neolithic arrow heads.
Neolithic arrow heads.

A striking example of gender – tribal communities organisation represent a social order of the Iroquois, in which, among other things, there is an alliance of tribes between two military commanders, whose authority and power were the same. The tribal alliance had its own council, which was constituted of about 50 gender leaders. That is how other tribal communities formed similar alliances, but all of these alliances have fallen apart quickly, especially during times when there was any need for their existence.

The Council have always dealt and decide about issues, which were related to members of the gender, fraternity or a tribe. They would decide based on established customs, which are present for many years.

In the gender society, all its members were punished, which during dividing of the prey bypassed folk customs, or they violated the marriage relations. In the background, based on gender community customs, were suppressed all personal or individual interests. On this affected difficult struggle of man with nature that took place in a conditions of underdeveloped productive forces and low labour productivity. Gender and tribe were and are closed communities, in both political and socioeconomic terms. While fights and conflicts within the gender were solved at the general meeting of the relatives, on the other hand insults and attacks from the members of the other gender brought bloody revenge. Unlike the gender, tribe was much more closed. The best example for this can be very frequent wars between tribes. In the period before the gender, there were not wars, which is explained by the fact that life and survival of the people at the time was caused by an extremely low level of economic development. Providing of necessary resources for life was limited, above all, by existence and taking of the products, which could be found in the human environment. There were no reserves of food. The low level of producing activity, and vast expanses of no-man’s land and uninhabited land, which at the time some tribes inhabited and shared between themselves, influenced the formation of completely closed or isolated economies. This brought separation and closure of some certain human groups.

As the number of people raises so is, certain disagreements among the tribes raised as well, especially at the borders where land of tribes border with one another. At those places, many disagreements ended with war confrontations. Most often, the conflict occurred because of an insult, and very often due to expansion of the territory.

The basic purpose of inter-tribal wars was the complete destruction of settlements, then extermination or enslavement of the current population. Sometimes, they eat or killed prisoners, and often they would put them in the army in order to fulfill own losses in an army. Gender, fraternal or tribal communities commanded military operations, therefore specially selected people do this job, which were known as military commanders.


During the highest development of the first community, a gender family was mainly based on marriage between one man and one woman, although still, for thousands of years were present forms of group marriage. Marriages were usually done according to the wishes of women – mothers. Husbands of the wives were originally from different gender. Both husband and wife had their own assets, which they achieved and used themselves. While the husband possessed the tools and weapons, and equipment for hunting and fishing, wife’s assets were all the household utensils.

Place of living for the husband was matrilocal (lat. mater – mother; locus – a place),which means that the husband left his family so that he could live with his wife’s family. He continued to live and work in wife’s family.

At the time of matriarchy, position of man was substantially small. The important role of women in the system of economy enabled her high position in society, and therefore the so-called maternal power or matriarchy (lat. mater – mother; gr. arhe – power). However, the economic development of the Neolithic period entirely altered the relationships within society, or family. Namely, matriarchal character of family-gender relationships, in which women played a leading role, was replaced by patriarchal arrangement of human communities.

Intensive livestock breeding, plough agriculture, vocation hunting and fishing were activities only reserved for men. Advancement of hunting skills and fishing allowed people to create permanent food reserves, which guaranteed a tranquil and quiet life in the coming period. When craft was separated from the agriculture, many activities from the previous domestic economy, which was almost exclusively women job, passed into the hands of men, due to that, craftsmen – professionals started to appear.


Slave labour started more and more to become part of domestic economy, undermining the role of women. Women position with time become more like a slave position. Therefore, woman lost all those important functions in the household, while on the other hand a man completely took over power in the family and in society. Woman social impact with time completely disappeared. She was forbidden to attend parliament and to participate in the council seats. Woman after wedding ceremony entered into the husband’s family, in which the man represented the core of such a community. This is how patrilocal way of living (lat.pater – father; locus – a place) was established.

Members of the gender, for the woman, which they gave to her husband, asked certain compensation on the grounds, that they lost one working unit. Therefore, with time it was introduced a purchase of women and marriage, in which woman was completely subjected to the will of her husband.

In order to closely bond woman for her husband’s family it was used practice of levirate, i.e. a custom by which husband’s brother or brother-in-law could marry the wife of his deceased brother or sororate. According to sororate marriage, a man could engage in marriage with sister from his death wife.

Blood relation was by the father, while all family assets belonged to children. The new right of inheritage was developed as a direct product of paternal rights of inheritage. The wife could not inherit her husband’s property. Because she was considered as well a purchased property of her husband. The man was the head of the family. He had all the power over wife and the children. Monogamy was only thing allowed for the wife, while husband had the right to practice polygamy. Husband was allowed to have one or more mistresses, but women, which he had chosen to be his mistress were slaves. This practically turned woman into a house cleaner or a slave of her husband’s wishes. She was a tool that bears children.

Creating of patriarchal relations resulted in the patriarchal family, or community made up of descendants of the men (sons, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and so on.). Family community was, above all, an economic unit of society. Family community managed a common economy in the whole gender land. All family life was managed by the oldest member of the gender, which from time to time consulted with all experienced members of the family community.

The members of one community lived together under one roof working and managing the assets at its discretion. Since with time managing domestic economy become very difficult, family communities decided to split into smaller patriarchy family units that lived separate lives and independently took care of economy and agriculture that was necessary for themselves. A group of such gender families is known under name patronomy. Several patronomies and patriarchal families made a patriarchal family community whose main goal was to provide for its members means for production, and to help them as much as possible in the process of economy. The land and all other assets were under the management of gender as separate society unit.