The period of human culture that began around 10,000 years ago in the Middle East and later in other parts of the world. It is characterized by the beginning of farming, the domestication of animals, the development of crafts such as pottery and weaving, and the making of polished stone tools. The Neolithic Period is generally considered to end for any particular region with the introduction of metalworking, writing, or other developments of urban civilization. Also called New Stone Age. Compare Mesolithic, Paleolithic.