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Metal Ages, Mesopotamia.

The Neolithic & the Metal Ages

An Introduction for College Students

D. K. Jordan

This portion of the web site contains a very general introduction to the "Neolithic," a troubled term referring to the time (or stage) when humans shifted from being primarily foragers to being primarily food producers.

Given the intended use of these essays as course readings, I have avoided citations to the published literature as much as possible. For expansions on most of the topics useful materials can be found on the Internet, and especially as a first step in Wikipedia, although the discussion here tells the "story" more smoothly.

Interactive review quizzes are also available for these materials, as shown below.

The Neolithic

There are three essays devoted to the Neolithic:

  1. The “Agricultural Revolution” (Link)
  2. Beyond Wheat (Link)
  3. Living the Revolution (Link)

Interactive, multiple-choice review quizzes are linked at the end of each essay. In addition two matching quizzes span across the three essays: Matching Quiz 1, Matching Quiz 2

The Metal Ages

The Neolithic brought on substantial increases in population, and was followed in many parts of the world by the "Metal Ages," particularly the Copper Age or Chalolithic, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age. A fourth, separate essay is provided as an introduction to this topic, and a fifth describing the particular case of Mesopotamia.

  1. After the Neolithic: The Metal Ages (Link)
    A review quiz is linked at the end of the reading.
  2. Mesopotamia As a Bronze Age Civilization (Link)
    (Because this essay largely duplicates material I have assigned from other sources, I no longer assign it in my classes and have not made separate review quizzes for it.)

Review Quizzes for the Series of Five Essays:
Dates Quiz, Multiple Choice Review Quiz

In connection with this, you may also wish to read a general overview of metal and metallurgy in the ancient world (Link).


I have very extensively rewritten these four essays (originally a single essay) several times over the years for use in the Making of the Modern World course at UCSD's Eleanor Roosevelt College. However in its very earliest version this material made up part of one chapter of a 1976 textbook written collaboratively with my colleague Marc J. Swartz. I am pleased to express my gratitude to Professor Swartz for his trenchant criticisms of the earliest versions some decades back, and for his gracious willingness to allow its continued modification and its free access by all interested readers.

I am also most grateful to many students and colleagues who have offered comments and corrections in the years since, and especially to Nancy Friedlander, Jacqueline Giordano, and the late Donald Tuzin for their thoughtful views and eagle-eyed proof-reading.

An earlier version of these essays, using a separate browser frame for pictures, sources, and notes, remains available for instructors who have already linked to it, but it is no longer subject to correction or updating. (Link) The present reformatting should display better on tablets and other small browsers.