The Neolithic or "New" Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology that is traditionally the last part of the Stone Age. The Neolithic era follows the terminal Holocene Epipalaeolithic periods, beginning with the rise of farming, which produced the "Neolithic Revolution" and ending when metal tools became widespread in the Copper Age (chalcolithic) or Bronze Age or developing directly into the Iron Age, depending on geographical region.
Neolithic culture appeared in the Levant (Jericho, modern-day West Bank) about 8500 BC. It developed directly from the Epipaleolithic Natufian culture in the region, whose people pioneered wild cereal use, which then evolved into true farming. The Natufians can thus be called "proto-Neolithic" (11,000–8500 BC). As the Natufians had become dependent on wild cereals in their diet, and a sedentary way of life had begun among them, the climatic changes associated with the Younger Dryas forced people to develop farming. By 8500–8000 BC farming communities arose in the Levant and spread to Anatolia, North Africa and North Mesopotamia.
Early Neolithic farming was limited to a narrow range of crops, both wild and domesticated, which included einkorn wheat, millet and spelt and the keeping of dogs, sheep and goats. By about 7000 BC it included domesticated cattle and pigs, the establishment of permanently or seasonally inhabited settlements, and the use of pottery. Not all of these cultural elements characteristic of the Neolithic appeared everywhere in the same order: the earliest farming societies in the Near East did not use pottery, and, in Britain, it remains unclear to what extent plants were domesticated in the earliest Neolithic, or even whether permanently settled communities existed. In other parts of the world, such as Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia, independent domestication events led to their own regionally-distinctive Neolithic cultures which arose completely independent of those in Europe and Southwest Asia. Early Japanese societies used pottery before developing agriculture, for example.