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"OUT of an apparently world-wide, prehistoric, Neolithic base arose the great civilizations of ancient times. These we see in the Near East (in Egypt, the valley of the Tigris-Euphrates, and Persia); around the Mediterranean (in Crete, Greece, and westward to the Pillars of Hercules); in the Far East (in India, China, and Japan); and in the Americas (in Middle, South, and North America). " --Gardner's Art Through the Ages (1926) by Helen Gardner

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The Neolithic period, or New Stone Age, is an Old World archaeological period and the final division of the Stone Age. It saw the Neolithic Revolution, a wide-ranging set of developments that appear to have arisen independently in several parts of the world. This "Neolithic package" included the introduction of farming, domestication of animals, and change from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to one of settlement.

It began about 12,000 years ago when farming appeared in the Epipalaeolithic Near East, and later in other parts of the world. The Neolithic lasted in the Near East until the transitional period of the Chalcolithic (Copper Age) from about 6,500 years ago (4500 BC), marked by the development of metallurgy, leading up to the Bronze Age and Iron Age.

In other places the Neolithic followed the Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) and then lasted until later. In Ancient Egypt, the Neolithic lasted until the Protodynastic period, c. 3150 BC. In China it lasted until circa 2000 BC with the rise of the pre-Shang Erlitou culture, and in Scandinavia the Neolithic lasted until about 2000 BC. Some other parts of the world (including Oceania and some regions of the Americas) remained broadly comparable to the Neolithic stage of development until first contact.

The term Neolithic is modern, based on Greek νέος 'new' and λίθος 'stone', literally 'New Stone Age'. The term was coined by Sir John Lubbock in 1865 as a refinement of the three-age system.

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