Stone Age
Overview
The Stone Age is a broad prehistoric
Prehistory
Prehistory is the span of time before recorded history. Prehistory can refer to the period of human existence before the availability of those written records with which recorded history begins. More broadly, it refers to all the time preceding human existence and the invention of writing...

 period, lasting about 2.5 million years (Ma), during which human
Human
Humans are the only living species in the Homo genus...

s and their predecessor species in the genus Homo
Homo
Homo may refer to:*the Greek prefix ὅμο-, meaning "the same"*the Latin for man, human being*Homo, the taxonomical genus including modern humans...

, as well as the earlier partly contemporary genera Australopithecus
Australopithecus
Australopithecus is a genus of hominids that is now extinct. From the evidence gathered by palaeontologists and archaeologists, it appears that the Australopithecus genus evolved in eastern Africa around 4 million years ago before spreading throughout the continent and eventually becoming extinct...

and Paranthropus
Paranthropus
The robust australopithecines, members of the extinct hominin genus Paranthropus , were bipedal hominids that probably descended from the gracile australopithecine hominids...

, widely used exclusively stone
Rock (geology)
In geology, rock or stone is a naturally occurring solid aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids.The Earth's outer solid layer, the lithosphere, is made of rock. In general rocks are of three types, namely, igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic...

 as their hard material in the manufacture of implements with a sharp edge, a point, or a percussion surface. Bone
Bone
Bones are rigid organs that constitute part of the endoskeleton of vertebrates. They support, and protect the various organs of the body, produce red and white blood cells and store minerals. Bone tissue is a type of dense connective tissue...

 was used during this period as well, but finds of bone tools are rare compared to the millions of stone tools that have been collected from the surface or excavated.
Encyclopedia
The Stone Age is a broad prehistoric
Prehistory
Prehistory is the span of time before recorded history. Prehistory can refer to the period of human existence before the availability of those written records with which recorded history begins. More broadly, it refers to all the time preceding human existence and the invention of writing...

 period, lasting about 2.5 million years (Ma), during which human
Human
Humans are the only living species in the Homo genus...

s and their predecessor species in the genus Homo
Homo
Homo may refer to:*the Greek prefix ὅμο-, meaning "the same"*the Latin for man, human being*Homo, the taxonomical genus including modern humans...

, as well as the earlier partly contemporary genera Australopithecus
Australopithecus
Australopithecus is a genus of hominids that is now extinct. From the evidence gathered by palaeontologists and archaeologists, it appears that the Australopithecus genus evolved in eastern Africa around 4 million years ago before spreading throughout the continent and eventually becoming extinct...

and Paranthropus
Paranthropus
The robust australopithecines, members of the extinct hominin genus Paranthropus , were bipedal hominids that probably descended from the gracile australopithecine hominids...

, widely used exclusively stone
Rock (geology)
In geology, rock or stone is a naturally occurring solid aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids.The Earth's outer solid layer, the lithosphere, is made of rock. In general rocks are of three types, namely, igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic...

 as their hard material in the manufacture of implements with a sharp edge, a point, or a percussion surface. Bone
Bone
Bones are rigid organs that constitute part of the endoskeleton of vertebrates. They support, and protect the various organs of the body, produce red and white blood cells and store minerals. Bone tissue is a type of dense connective tissue...

 was used during this period as well, but finds of bone tools are rare compared to the millions of stone tools that have been collected from the surface or excavated. Bone is much softer than the two types of hard material used by early man: stone and metals. During the Stone Age, metalworking
Metalworking
Metalworking is the process of working with metals to create individual parts, assemblies, or large scale structures. The term covers a wide range of work from large ships and bridges to precise engine parts and delicate jewelry. It therefore includes a correspondingly wide range of skills,...

 was beyond human capability.

The Stone Age is the first of the three-age system
Three-age system
The three-age system in archaeology and physical anthropology is the periodization of human prehistory into three consecutive time periods, named for their respective tool-making technologies:* The Stone Age* The Bronze Age* The Iron Age-Origin:...

 of archaeology
Archaeology
Archaeology, or archeology , is the study of human society, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes...

, which divides human technological prehistory
Prehistory
Prehistory is the span of time before recorded history. Prehistory can refer to the period of human existence before the availability of those written records with which recorded history begins. More broadly, it refers to all the time preceding human existence and the invention of writing...

 into three periods:
  • The Stone Age
  • The Bronze Age
    Bronze Age
    The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

  • The Iron Age
    Iron Age
    The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...


Historical significance

The Stone Age is nearly contemporaneous with the evolution of the genus Homo
Homo
Homo may refer to:*the Greek prefix ὅμο-, meaning "the same"*the Latin for man, human being*Homo, the taxonomical genus including modern humans...

, the only exception possibly being at the very beginning, when species prior to Homo may have manufactured tools. According to the age and location of the current evidence, the cradle of the genus is the East African Rift System, especially toward the north in Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

, where it is bordered by grasslands. The closest relative among the other living Primate
Primate
A primate is a mammal of the order Primates , which contains prosimians and simians. Primates arose from ancestors that lived in the trees of tropical forests; many primate characteristics represent adaptations to life in this challenging three-dimensional environment...

s, the genus Pan
Chimpanzee
Chimpanzee, sometimes colloquially chimp, is the common name for the two extant species of ape in the genus Pan. The Congo River forms the boundary between the native habitat of the two species:...

, represents a branch that continued on in the deep forest, where the primates evolved. The rift served as a conduit for movement into southern Africa
Southern Africa
Southern Africa is the southernmost region of the African continent, variably defined by geography or geopolitics. Within the region are numerous territories, including the Republic of South Africa ; nowadays, the simpler term South Africa is generally reserved for the country in English.-UN...

 and also north down the Nile
Nile
The Nile is a major north-flowing river in North Africa, generally regarded as the longest river in the world. It is long. It runs through the ten countries of Sudan, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Egypt.The Nile has two major...

 into North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

 and through the continuation of the rift in the Levant
Levant
The Levant or ) is the geographic region and culture zone of the "eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt" . The Levant includes most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and sometimes parts of Turkey and Iraq, and corresponds roughly to the...

 to the vast grasslands of Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

.

Starting from about 3 mya a single biome
Biome
Biomes are climatically and geographically defined as similar climatic conditions on the Earth, such as communities of plants, animals, and soil organisms, and are often referred to as ecosystems. Some parts of the earth have more or less the same kind of abiotic and biotic factors spread over a...

 established itself from South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 through the rift, North Africa, and across Asia to China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, which has been called "transcontinental 'savannahstan'" recently. Starting in the grasslands of the rift, the ancestors of man found an ecological niche
Ecological niche
In ecology, a niche is a term describing the relational position of a species or population in its ecosystem to each other; e.g. a dolphin could potentially be in another ecological niche from one that travels in a different pod if the members of these pods utilize significantly different food...

 as a tool-maker and developed a dependence on it. Homo erectus
Homo erectus
Homo erectus is an extinct species of hominid that lived from the end of the Pliocene epoch to the later Pleistocene, about . The species originated in Africa and spread as far as India, China and Java. There is still disagreement on the subject of the classification, ancestry, and progeny of H...

, the predecessor of modern men, became a "tool equipped savanna
Savanna
A savanna, or savannah, is a grassland ecosystem characterized by the trees being sufficiently small or widely spaced so that the canopy does not close. The open canopy allows sufficient light to reach the ground to support an unbroken herbaceous layer consisting primarily of C4 grasses.Some...

 dweller."

The Stone Age in archaeology

Beginning of the Stone Age

The oldest known stone tools have been excavated from several sites at Gona, Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

, on the sediments of the paleo-Awash River
Awash River
The Awash is a major river of Ethiopia. Its course is entirely contained within the boundaries of Ethiopia, and empties into a chain of interconnected lakes that begin with Lake Gargori and end with Lake Abbe on the border with Djibouti, some 100 kilometers from the head of the Gulf of Tadjoura...

, which serve to date them. All the tools come from the Busidama Formation, which lies above a disconformity, or missing layer, which would have been from 2.9-2.7 mya. The oldest sites containing tools are dated to 2.6-2.55 mya. One of the most striking circumstances about these sites is that they are from the Late Pliocene
Pliocene
The Pliocene Epoch is the period in the geologic timescale that extends from 5.332 million to 2.588 million years before present. It is the second and youngest epoch of the Neogene Period in the Cenozoic Era. The Pliocene follows the Miocene Epoch and is followed by the Pleistocene Epoch...

, where previous to their discovery tools were thought to have evolved only in the Pleistocene
Pleistocene
The Pleistocene is the epoch from 2,588,000 to 11,700 years BP that spans the world's recent period of repeated glaciations. The name pleistocene is derived from the Greek and ....

. Rogers and Semaw, excavators at the locality, point out that:
"...the earliest stone tool makers were skilled flintknappers .... The possible reasons behind this seeming abrupt transition from the absence of stone tools to the presence thereof include ... gaps in the geological record."


The excavators are confident that more tools will be found elsewhere from 2.9 mya. The species who made the Pliocene tools remains unknown. Fragments of Australopithecus garhi
Australopithecus garhi
Australopithecus garhi is a gracile australopithecine species whose fossils were discovered in 1996 by a research team led by Ethiopian paleontologist Berhane Asfaw and Tim White, an American paleontologist. The hominin remains are believed to be a human ancestor species and the final missing link...

, Australopithecus aethiopicus and Homo, possibly Homo habilis
Homo habilis
Homo habilis is a species of the genus Homo, which lived from approximately at the beginning of the Pleistocene period. The discovery and description of this species is credited to both Mary and Louis Leakey, who found fossils in Tanzania, East Africa, between 1962 and 1964. Homo habilis Homo...

, have been found in sites near the age of the oldest tools.

End of the Stone Age

Innovation of the technique of smelting
Smelting
Smelting is a form of extractive metallurgy; its main use is to produce a metal from its ore. This includes iron extraction from iron ore, and copper extraction and other base metals from their ores...

 ore
Ore
An ore is a type of rock that contains minerals with important elements including metals. The ores are extracted through mining; these are then refined to extract the valuable element....

 ended the Stone Age and began the Age of Metals. The first most significant metal manufactured was bronze
Bronze
Bronze is a metal alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive. It is hard and brittle, and it was particularly significant in antiquity, so much so that the Bronze Age was named after the metal...

, an alloy of copper
Copper
Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. Pure copper is soft and malleable; an exposed surface has a reddish-orange tarnish...

 and tin
Tin
Tin is a chemical element with the symbol Sn and atomic number 50. It is a main group metal in group 14 of the periodic table. Tin shows chemical similarity to both neighboring group 14 elements, germanium and lead and has two possible oxidation states, +2 and the slightly more stable +4...

, each of which was smelted separately. The transition from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

 was a period during which modern people could smelt copper, but did not yet manufacture bronze, a time known as the Copper Age
Copper Age
The Chalcolithic |stone]]") period or Copper Age, also known as the Eneolithic/Æneolithic , is a phase of the Bronze Age in which the addition of tin to copper to form bronze during smelting remained yet unknown by the metallurgists of the times...

, or more technically the Chalcolithic, "copper-stone" age. The Chalcolithic by convention is the initial period of the Bronze Age and is unquestionably part of the Age of Metals. The Bronze Age was followed by the Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

. During this entire time stone remained in use in parallel with the metals for some objects, including those also used in the Neolithic, such as stone pottery.

The transition out of the Stone Age occurred between 6000 BCE and 2500 BCE for much of humanity living in North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

 and Eurasia
Eurasia
Eurasia is a continent or supercontinent comprising the traditional continents of Europe and Asia ; covering about 52,990,000 km2 or about 10.6% of the Earth's surface located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres...

. The first evidence of human metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy is a domain of materials science that studies the physical and chemical behavior of metallic elements, their intermetallic compounds, and their mixtures, which are called alloys. It is also the technology of metals: the way in which science is applied to their practical use...

 dates to between the 5th
5th millennium BC
The 5th millennium BC saw the spread of agriculture from the Near East throughout southern and central Europe.Urban cultures in Mesopotamia and Anatolia flourished, developing the wheel. Copper ornaments became more common, marking the Chalcolithic. Animal husbandry spread throughout Eurasia,...

 and 6th
6th millennium BC
During the 6th millennium BC, agriculture spread from the Balkans to Italy and Eastern Europe, and also from Mesopotamia to Egypt. World population was essentially stable at approximately 5 million, though some speculate up to 7 million.-Events:...

 millennium
Millennium
A millennium is a period of time equal to one thousand years —from the Latin phrase , thousand, and , year—often but not necessarily related numerically to a particular dating system....

 BCE in the archaeological sites of Majdanpek
Majdanpek
Majdanpek is a town and municipality in Bor District of Serbia. According to 2011 census, the municipality of Majdanpek has a population of 18,179 people, while the town of Majdanpek has a population of 7,367....

, Yarmovac and Pločnik
Plocnik
Pločnik is a village in the municipality of Prokuplje, Toplica District, Republic of Serbia. According to the 2002 population census, it's populated by 182, all of whom declared Serbs....

 (a copper axe from 5500 BCE belonging to the Vincha culture) and the Rudna Glava
Rudna Glava
Rudna Glava is a mining site in present-day eastern Serbia that demonstrates one of the earliest evidences of European copper mining and metallurgy, dating to the 5th millennium BC. Shafts were cut into the hillside, with scaffolding constructed for easy access to the veins of ore. It belongs to...

 mine in Serbia
Serbia
Serbia , officially the Republic of Serbia , is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Carpathian basin and the central part of the Balkans...

. Ötzi the Iceman
Ötzi the Iceman
Ötzi the Iceman , Similaun Man, and Man from Hauslabjoch are modern names for a well-preserved natural mummy of a man who lived about 5,300 years ago. The mummy was found in September 1991 in the Ötztal Alps, near Hauslabjoch on the border between Austria and Italy. The nickname comes from the...

, a mummy
Mummy
A mummy is a body, human or animal, whose skin and organs have been preserved by either intentional or incidental exposure to chemicals, extreme coldness , very low humidity, or lack of air when bodies are submerged in bogs, so that the recovered body will not decay further if kept in cool and dry...

 from about 3300 BCE carried with him a copper axe and a flint knife.

In regions such as Subsaharan Africa, the Stone Age was followed directly by the Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

. The Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 and southeastern Asian
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

 regions progressed past Stone Age technology around 6000 BC. Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, and the rest of Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

 became post–Stone Age societies
Society
A society, or a human society, is a group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations...

 by about 4000 BC. The proto-Inca
Cultural periods of Peru
This is a chart of cultural periods of Peru and the Andean Region developed by Edward Lanning and used by some archaeologists studying the area...

 cultures of South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

 continued at a Stone Age level until around 2000 BC, when gold
Gold
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

, copper and silver
Silver
Silver is a metallic chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag and atomic number 47. A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal...

 made their entrance, the rest following later. Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 remained in the Stone Age until the 17th century. Stone tool manufacture continued. In Europe and North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

, millstone
Millstone
Millstones or mill stones are used in windmills and watermills, including tide mills, for grinding wheat or other grains.The type of stone most suitable for making millstones is a siliceous rock called burrstone , an open-textured, porous but tough, fine-grained sandstone, or a silicified,...

s were in use until well into the 20th century, and still are in many parts of the world.

The concept of Stone Age

The term was never meant to suggest that advancement and time periods in prehistory are only measured by the type of tool material, rather than, for example, social organization, food sources exploited, adaptation to climate, adoption of agriculture
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

, cooking
Cooking
Cooking is the process of preparing food by use of heat. Cooking techniques and ingredients vary widely across the world, reflecting unique environmental, economic, and cultural traditions. Cooks themselves also vary widely in skill and training...

, settlement and religion
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

. Like pottery
Pottery
Pottery is the material from which the potteryware is made, of which major types include earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. The place where such wares are made is also called a pottery . Pottery also refers to the art or craft of the potter or the manufacture of pottery...

, the typology of the stone tools combined with the relative sequence of the types in various regions provide a chronological framework for the evolution of man and society. They serve as diagnostics of date, rather than characterizing the people or the society.

Lithic analysis
Lithic analysis
In archaeology, lithic analysis is the analysis of stone tools and other chipped stone artifacts using basic scientific techniques. At its most basic level, lithic analyses involve an analysis of the artifact’s morphology, the measurement of various physical attributes, and examining other visible...

 is a major and specialised form of archaeological investigation. It involves the measurement of the stone tools to determine their typology, function and the technology involved. It includes scientific study of the lithic reduction
Lithic reduction
Lithic reduction involves the use of a hard hammer precursor, such as a hammerstone, a soft hammer fabricator , or a wood or antler punch to detach lithic flakes from a lump of tool stone called a lithic core . As flakes are detached in sequence, the original mass of stone is reduced; hence the...

 of the raw materials, examining how the artifacts were made. Much of this study takes place in the laboratory in the presence of various specialists. In experimental archaeology
Experimental archaeology
Experimental archaeology employs a number of different methods, techniques, analyses, and approaches in order to generate and test hypotheses, based upon archaeological source material, like ancient structures or artifacts. It should not be confused with primitive technology which is not concerned...

, researchers attempt to create replica tools, to understand how they were made. Flintknapper
Flintknapper
Knapping is the shaping of flint, chert, obsidian or other conchoidal fracturing stone through the process of lithic reduction to manufacture stone tools, strikers for flintlock firearms, or to produce flat-faced stones for building or facing walls, and flushwork decoration.- Method :Flintknapping...

s are craftsmen who use sharp tools to reduce flint
Flint
Flint is a hard, sedimentary cryptocrystalline form of the mineral quartz, categorized as a variety of chert. It occurs chiefly as nodules and masses in sedimentary rocks, such as chalks and limestones. Inside the nodule, flint is usually dark grey, black, green, white, or brown in colour, and...

stone to a flint tool.

In addition to lithic analysis, the field prehistorian utilizes a wide range of techniques derived from multiple fields. The work of the archaeologist in determining the paleocontext and relative sequence of the layers is supplemented by the efforts of the geologic specialist in identifying layers of rock over geologic time, of the paleontological specialist in identifying bones and animals, of the palynologist in discovering and identifying plant species, of the physicist and chemist in laboratories determining dates by the carbon-14
Carbon-14
Carbon-14, 14C, or radiocarbon, is a radioactive isotope of carbon with a nucleus containing 6 protons and 8 neutrons. Its presence in organic materials is the basis of the radiocarbon dating method pioneered by Willard Libby and colleagues , to date archaeological, geological, and hydrogeological...

, potassium-argon and other methods. Study of the Stone Age has never been mainly about stone tools and archaeology, which are only one form of evidence. The chief focus has always been on the society and the physical people who belonged to it.

Useful as it has been, the concept of the Stone Age has its limitations. The date range of this period is ambiguous, disputed, and variable according to the region in question. While it is possible to speak of a general 'stone age' period for the whole of humanity, some groups never developed metal-smelting
Smelting
Smelting is a form of extractive metallurgy; its main use is to produce a metal from its ore. This includes iron extraction from iron ore, and copper extraction and other base metals from their ores...

 technology, so remained in a 'stone age' until they encountered technologically developed cultures. The term was innovated to describe the archaeological culture
Archaeological culture
An archaeological culture is a recurring assemblage of artifacts from a specific time and place, which are thought to constitute the material culture remains of a particular past human society. The connection between the artifacts is based on archaeologists' understanding and interpretation and...

s of Europe. It may not always be the best in relation to regions such as some parts of the Indies
Indies
The Indies is a term that has been used to describe the lands of South and Southeast Asia, occupying all of the present India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and also Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Brunei, Singapore, the Philippines, East Timor, Malaysia and...

 and Oceania
Oceania
Oceania is a region centered on the islands of the tropical Pacific Ocean. Conceptions of what constitutes Oceania range from the coral atolls and volcanic islands of the South Pacific to the entire insular region between Asia and the Americas, including Australasia and the Malay Archipelago...

, where farmers or hunter-gatherer
Hunter-gatherer
A hunter-gatherer or forage society is one in which most or all food is obtained from wild plants and animals, in contrast to agricultural societies which rely mainly on domesticated species. Hunting and gathering was the ancestral subsistence mode of Homo, and all modern humans were...

s used stone for tools until European colonisation
Colonisation
Colonization occurs whenever any one or more species populate an area. The term, which is derived from the Latin colere, "to inhabit, cultivate, frequent, practice, tend, guard, respect", originally related to humans. However, 19th century biogeographers dominated the term to describe the...

 began.

The archaeologists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries AD, who adapted the three-age system
Three-age system
The three-age system in archaeology and physical anthropology is the periodization of human prehistory into three consecutive time periods, named for their respective tool-making technologies:* The Stone Age* The Bronze Age* The Iron Age-Origin:...

 to their ideas, hoped to combine cultural anthropology and archaeology in such a way that a specific contemporaneous tribe can be used to illustrate the way of life and beliefs of the people exercising a specific Stone-Age technology. As a description of people living today, the term stone age is controversial. The Association of Social Anthropologists discourages this use, asserting:
"To describe any living group as 'primitive' or 'Stone Age' inevitably implies that they are living representatives of some earlier stage of human development that the majority of humankind has left behind. For some, this could be a positive description, implying, for example, that such groups live in greater harmony with nature .... For others, ... 'primitive' is a negative characterisation. For them, 'primitive' denotes irrational use of resources and absence of the intellectual and moral standards of 'civilised' human societies.... From the standpoint of anthropological knowledge, both these views are equally one-sided and simplistic."

The three-stage system

In the 1920s, South African archaeologists organizing the stone tool collections of that country observed that they did not fit the newly detailed Three-Age System. In the words of J. Desmond Clark
J. Desmond Clark
John Desmond Clark was a British archaeologist noted particularly for his work on prehistoric Africa.Educated at Monkton Combe School near Bath, J. Desmond Clark graduated with a B.A...

,
"It was early realized that the threefold division of culture into Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages adopted in the nineteenth century for Europe had no validity in Africa outside the Nile valley."


Consequently they proposed a new system for Africa, the Three-stage System. Clark regarded the Three-age System as valid for North Africa; in sub-Saharan Africa, the Three-stage System was best. In practice, the failure of African archaeologists either to keep this distinction in mind, or to explain which one they mean, contributes to the considerable equivocation already present in the literature. There are in effect two Stone Ages, one part of the Three-age and the other constituting the Three-stage. They refer to one and the same artifacts and the same technologies, but vary by locality and time.

The Three-stage System was proposed in 1929 by Astley John Hilary Goodman, a professional archaeologist, and Clarence van Riet Lowe, a civil engineer and amateur archaeologist, in an article titled "Stone Age Cultures of South Africa" in the journal Annals of the South African Museum. By then, the dates of the Early Stone Age, or Paleolithic, and Late Stone Age, or Neolithic (neo = new), were fairly solid and were regarded by Goodwin as absolute. He therefore proposed a relative chronology of periods with floating dates, to be called the Earlier and Later Stone Age. The Middle Stone Age would not change its name, but it would not mean Mesolithic.

The duo thus reinvented the Stone Age. In Sub-Saharan Africa, however, it was ended by the intrusion of the Iron Age from the north. The Neolithic and the Bronze Age never occurred. Moreover, the technologies included in those 'stages', as Goodwin called them, were not exactly the same. Since then, the original relative terms have become identified with the technologies of the Paleolithic and Mesolithic, so that they are no longer relative. Moreover, there has been a tendency to drop the comparative degree in favor of the positive: resulting in two sets of Early, Middle and Late Stone Ages of quite different content and chronologies.

By voluntary agreement, archaeologists respect the decisions of the Pan-African Congress of Prehistory, which meets every four years to resolve archaeological business brought before it. Delegates are actually international; the organization takes its name from the topic. Louis Leakey
Louis Leakey
Louis Seymour Bazett Leakey was a British archaeologist and naturalist whose work was important in establishing human evolutionary development in Africa. He also played a major role in creating organizations for future research in Africa and for protecting wildlife there...

 hosted the first one in Nairobi
Nairobi
Nairobi is the capital and largest city of Kenya. The city and its surrounding area also forms the Nairobi County. The name "Nairobi" comes from the Maasai phrase Enkare Nyirobi, which translates to "the place of cool waters". However, it is popularly known as the "Green City in the Sun" and is...

 in 1947. It adopted Goodman and Lowe's 3-stage system at that time, the stages to be called Early, Middle and Later.

The problem of the transitions

The problem of the transition
Transition
Transition or transitional may refer to:* Transition economy* Transition function* Transition * Transitional government* Transition * Transition , a flying car made by Terrafugia...

s in archaeology is a branch of the general philosophic continuity
Continuity
Continuity may refer to:In mathematics:* The opposing concept to discreteness; common examples include:** Continuous probability distribution or random variable in probability and statistics...

 problem, which examines how discrete
Discrete
Discrete in science is the opposite of continuous: something that is separate; distinct; individual.Discrete may refer to:*Discrete particle or quantum in physics, for example in quantum theory...

 objects of any sort that are contiguous
Contiguity
A contiguity is a continuous mass, or a series of things in contact or proximity. In a different meaning, contiguity is the state of being contiguous...

 in any way can be presumed to have a relationship
Relationship
Relationship or relationships may refer to:* Interpersonal relationship* Intimate relationship* In mathematics and statistics:** Binary relation** Causal relationship** Correlation and dependence** Direct relationship** Inverse relationship...

 of any sort. In archaeology the relationship is one of causality
Causality
Causality is the relationship between an event and a second event , where the second event is understood as a consequence of the first....

. If Period B can be presumed to descend from Period A there must be a boundary
Boundary
Boundary may refer to:*Border* in psychology,**Personal boundaries* in mathematics,**Boundary , the closure minus the interior of a subset of a topological space; an edge in the topology of manifolds, as in the case of a 'manifold with boundary'**Boundary value problem, a differential equation...

 between A and B, the A-B boundary. The problem is in the nature of this boundary. If there is no distinct boundary, then the population of A suddenly stopped using the customs characteristic of A and suddenly started using those of B, an unlikely scenario in the process of evolution
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

. More realistically a distinct border period, the A/B transition, existed, in which the customs of A were gradually dropped and those of B acquired. If transitions do not exist, then there is no proof of any continuity between A and B.

The Stone Age of Europe is characteristically in deficit of known transitions. The 19th and early 20th century innovators of the modern three-age system
Three-age system
The three-age system in archaeology and physical anthropology is the periodization of human prehistory into three consecutive time periods, named for their respective tool-making technologies:* The Stone Age* The Bronze Age* The Iron Age-Origin:...

 recognized the problem of the initial transition, the "gap" between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic. Louis Leakey
Louis Leakey
Louis Seymour Bazett Leakey was a British archaeologist and naturalist whose work was important in establishing human evolutionary development in Africa. He also played a major role in creating organizations for future research in Africa and for protecting wildlife there...

 provided something of an answer by proving that man evolved in Africa. The Stone Age must have begun there to be carried repeatedly to Europe by migrant populations. The different phases of the Stone Age thus could appear there without transitions. The burden on African archaeologists became all the greater, because now they must find the missing transitions in Africa. The problem is difficult and ongoing.

After its adoption by the First Pan African Congress in 1947, the Three-Stage Chronology was amended by the Third Congress in 1955 to include a First Intermediate Period between Early and Middle, to encompass the Fauresmith and Sangoan
Sangoan
The Sangoan archaeological industry is the name given by archaeologists to a Palaeolithic tool manufacturing style which may have developed from the earlier Acheulian types . In addition to the Acheulian stone tools, use was also made of bone and antler picks...

 technologies, and the Second Intermediate Period between Middle and Later, to encompass the Magosian
Magosian
The Magosian is the name given by archaeologists to an industry found in southern and eastern Africa. It dates to between 10,000 and 6,000 years BC and is distinguished from its predecessors by the use of microliths and small blades.In 1953, J...

 technology and others. The chronologic basis for definition was entirely relative. With the arrival of scientific means of finding an absolute chronology, the two intermediates turned out to be will-of-the-wisps. They were in fact Middle
Middle Paleolithic
The Middle Paleolithic is the second subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age as it is understood in Europe, Africa and Asia. The term Middle Stone Age is used as an equivalent or a synonym for the Middle Paleolithic in African archeology. The Middle Paleolithic and the Middle Stone Age...

 and Lower Paleolithic
Lower Paleolithic
The Lower Paleolithic is the earliest subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age. It spans the time from around 2.5 million years ago when the first evidence of craft and use of stone tools by hominids appears in the current archaeological record, until around 300,000 years ago, spanning the...

. Fauresmith is now considered to be a facies
Facies
In geology, facies are a body of rock with specified characteristics. Ideally, a facies is a distinctive rock unit that forms under certain conditions of sedimentation, reflecting a particular process or environment....

 of Acheulean
Acheulean
Acheulean is the name given to an archaeological industry of stone tool manufacture associated with early humans during the Lower Palaeolithic era across Africa and much of West Asia, South Asia and Europe. Acheulean tools are typically found with Homo erectus remains...

, while Sangoan is a facies of Lupemban
Lupemban
The Lupemban is the name given by archaeologists to a central African culture which, though once thought to date between c. 30,000 and 12,000 BC, is now generally recognised to be far older . The industry is characterised by the occurrence of bi-facially flaked lanceolate points...

. Magosian is "an artificial mix of two different periods."

Once seriously questioned, the intermediates did not wait for the next Pan African Congress two years hence, but were officially rejected in 1965 (again on an advisory basis) by Burg Wartenstein Conference #29, Systematic Investigation of the African Later Tertiary and Quarternary, a prestigious conference in anthropology held by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, at Burg Wartenstein Castle, which it then owned in Austria, attended by the same key scholars that attended the Pan African Congress, including Louis Leakey
Louis Leakey
Louis Seymour Bazett Leakey was a British archaeologist and naturalist whose work was important in establishing human evolutionary development in Africa. He also played a major role in creating organizations for future research in Africa and for protecting wildlife there...

 and Mary Leakey
Mary Leakey
Mary Leakey was a British archaeologist and anthropologist, who discovered the first skull of a fossil ape on Rusinga Island and also a noted robust Australopithecine called Zinjanthropus at Olduvai. For much of her career she worked together with her husband, Louis Leakey, in Olduvai Gorge,...

, who was delivering a pilot presentation of her typological analysis of Early Stone Age tools, to be included in her 1971 contribution to Olduvai Gorge, "Excavations in Beds I and II, 1960-1963."

However, although the Intermediate Periods were gone, the search for the transitions continued.

Chronology

In 1859 Jens Jacob Worsaae first proposed a division of the Stone Age into older and younger parts based on his work with Danish kitchen middens that began in 1851. In the subsequent decades this simple distinction developed into the archaeological periods of today. The major subdivisions of the Three-age Stone Age cross two epoch
Epoch (geology)
An epoch is a subdivision of the geologic timescale based on rock layering. In order, the higher subdivisions are periods, eras and eons. We are currently living in the Holocene epoch...

 boundaries on the geologic time scale
Geologic time scale
The geologic time scale provides a system of chronologic measurement relating stratigraphy to time that is used by geologists, paleontologists and other earth scientists to describe the timing and relationships between events that have occurred during the history of the Earth...

:
  • The geologic Pliocene
    Pliocene
    The Pliocene Epoch is the period in the geologic timescale that extends from 5.332 million to 2.588 million years before present. It is the second and youngest epoch of the Neogene Period in the Cenozoic Era. The Pliocene follows the Miocene Epoch and is followed by the Pleistocene Epoch...

    Pleistocene
    Pleistocene
    The Pleistocene is the epoch from 2,588,000 to 11,700 years BP that spans the world's recent period of repeated glaciations. The name pleistocene is derived from the Greek and ....

     boundary (highly glaciated climate)
    • The Paleolithic
      Paleolithic
      The Paleolithic Age, Era or Period, is a prehistoric period of human history distinguished by the development of the most primitive stone tools discovered , and covers roughly 99% of human technological prehistory...

       period of archaeology
  • The geologic Pleistocene
    Pleistocene
    The Pleistocene is the epoch from 2,588,000 to 11,700 years BP that spans the world's recent period of repeated glaciations. The name pleistocene is derived from the Greek and ....

    Holocene
    Holocene
    The Holocene is a geological epoch which began at the end of the Pleistocene and continues to the present. The Holocene is part of the Quaternary period. Its name comes from the Greek words and , meaning "entirely recent"...

     boundary (modern climate)
    • Mesolithic
      Mesolithic
      The Mesolithic is an archaeological concept used to refer to certain groups of archaeological cultures defined as falling between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic....

       or Epipaleolithic
      Epipaleolithic
      The Epipaleolithic Age was a period in the development of human technology marked by more advanced stone blades and other tools than the earlier Paleolithic age, although still before the development of agriculture in the Neolithic age...

       period of archaeology
    • Neolithic
      Neolithic
      The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

       period of archaeology

The succession of these phases varies enormously from one region
Region
Region is most commonly found as a term used in terrestrial and astrophysics sciences also an area, notably among the different sub-disciplines of geography, studied by regional geographers. Regions consist of subregions that contain clusters of like areas that are distinctive by their uniformity...

 (and culture
Archaeological culture
An archaeological culture is a recurring assemblage of artifacts from a specific time and place, which are thought to constitute the material culture remains of a particular past human society. The connection between the artifacts is based on archaeologists' understanding and interpretation and...

) to another.

Three-age chronology

The Paleolithic or Palaeolithic (from Greek: παλαιός, palaios, "old
Old
- Age :*Old age or, by extension, a description or nickname for someone or something that has endured and become comfortable or widely familiar.- Places :*Old, Hungary*Old, Northamptonshire, England...

"; and λίθος, lithos
Lithos
Lithos is a glyphic sans-serif typeface designed by Carol Twombly in 1989 for Adobe Systems. Lithos is inspired by the unadorned, geometric letterforms of the engravings found on Ancient Greek public buildings...

, "stone" lit. "old stone," coined by archaeologist John Lubbock
John Lubbock, 1st Baron Avebury
John Lubbock, 1st Baron Avebury PC , FRS , known as Sir John Lubbock, 4th Baronet from 1865 until 1900, was a polymath and Liberal Member of Parliament....

 and published in 1865) is the earliest division of the Stone Age. It covers the greatest portion of humanity's time (roughly 99% of "human technological history," where "human" and "humanity" are interpreted to mean the genus Homo
Homo
Homo may refer to:*the Greek prefix ὅμο-, meaning "the same"*the Latin for man, human being*Homo, the taxonomical genus including modern humans...

), extending from 2.5 or 2.6 million years ago, with the first documented use of stone tools by hominans such as Homo habilis
Homo habilis
Homo habilis is a species of the genus Homo, which lived from approximately at the beginning of the Pleistocene period. The discovery and description of this species is credited to both Mary and Louis Leakey, who found fossils in Tanzania, East Africa, between 1962 and 1964. Homo habilis Homo...

, to the end of the Pleistocene
Pleistocene
The Pleistocene is the epoch from 2,588,000 to 11,700 years BP that spans the world's recent period of repeated glaciations. The name pleistocene is derived from the Greek and ....

 around 10,000 BCE. The Paleolithic era ended with the Mesolithic
Mesolithic
The Mesolithic is an archaeological concept used to refer to certain groups of archaeological cultures defined as falling between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic....

, or in areas with an early neolithisation
Neolithic Revolution
The Neolithic Revolution was the first agricultural revolution. It was the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture and settlement. Archaeological data indicates that various forms of plants and animal domestication evolved independently in 6 separate locations worldwide circa...

, the Epipaleolithic
Epipaleolithic
The Epipaleolithic Age was a period in the development of human technology marked by more advanced stone blades and other tools than the earlier Paleolithic age, although still before the development of agriculture in the Neolithic age...

.

Lower Paleolithic

The Lower Paleolithic began in Africa. Toward the end of its African phase it propagated in Eurasia, where it remained long after its termination in Africa. Across the whole range Lower Paleolithic in Eurasia may be contemporaneous with Middle and Upper in regions where it had been but was supplanted.
Oldowan in Africa


The earliest documented stone tool
Stone tool
A stone tool is, in the most general sense, any tool made either partially or entirely out of stone. Although stone tool-dependent societies and cultures still exist today, most stone tools are associated with prehistoric, particularly Stone Age cultures that have become extinct...

s were found in East Africa
East Africa
East Africa or Eastern Africa is the easterly region of the African continent, variably defined by geography or geopolitics. In the UN scheme of geographic regions, 19 territories constitute Eastern Africa:...

, manufacturers unknown. They belonged to an industry
Archaeological industry
An archaeological industry, normally just "industry", is the name given in the study of prehistory to a consistent range of assemblages connected with a single product, such as the Langdale axe industry...

 now known as Oldowan, after the type site of Olduvai Gorge
Olduvai Gorge
The Olduvai Gorge is a steep-sided ravine in the Great Rift Valley that stretches through eastern Africa. It is in the eastern Serengeti Plains in northern Tanzania and is about long. It is located 45 km from the Laetoli archaeological site...

 in Tanzania
Tanzania
The United Republic of Tanzania is a country in East Africa bordered by Kenya and Uganda to the north, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, and Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique to the south. The country's eastern borders lie on the Indian Ocean.Tanzania is a state...

; however, sites in Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

 later proved to be older.

The tools were formed by knocking pieces off a river pebble, or stones like it, with a hammerstone to obtain large and small pieces with one or more sharp edges. The original stone is called a core; the resultant pieces, flakes. Typically, but not necessarily, small pieces are detached from a larger piece, in which case the larger piece may be called the core
Lithic core
In archaeology, a lithic core is a distinctive artifact that results from the practice of lithic reduction. In this sense, a core is the scarred nucleus resulting from the detachment of one or more flakes from a lump of source material or tool stone, usually by using a hard hammer percussor such...

 and the smaller pieces the flakes
Lithic flake
In archaeology, a lithic flake is a "portion of rock removed from an objective piece by percussion or pressure," and may also be referred to as a chip or spall, or collectively as debitage. The objective piece, or the rock being reduced by the removal of flakes, is known as a core. Once the proper...

. The prevalent usage, however, is to call all the results flakes, which can be confusing. A split in half is called bipolar flaking.

Consequently the method is often called "core-and-flake". More recently, the tradition has been called "small flake" since the flakes were small compared to subsequent Acheulean tools.
"The essence of the Oldowan is the making and often immediate use of small flakes."


Another naming scheme is "Pebble Core Technology (PBC)":
"Pebble cores are ... artefacts that have been shaped by varying amounts of hard-hammer percussion."


Various refinements in the shape have been called choppers, discoids, polyhedrons, subspheroid, etc. To date no reasons for the variants have been ascertained:
"From a functional standpoint, pebble cores seem designed for no specific purpose."


However, they would not have been manufactured for no purpose:
"Pebble cores can be useful in many cutting, scraping or chopping tasks, but ... they are not particularly more efficient in such tasks than a sharp-edged rock ...."


The whole point of their utility is that each is a "sharp-edged rock" in locations where nature has not provided any. There is additional evidence that Oldowan, or Mode 1, tools were utilized in "percussion technology"; that is, they were designed to be gripped at the blunt end and strike something with the edge, from which use they were given the name of choppers
Chopper (archaeology)
Archaeologists define a chopper as a pebble tool with an irregular cutting edge formed through the removal of flakes from one side of a stone....

. Modern science has been able to detect mammalian blood cells on Mode 1 tools at Sterkfontein
Sterkfontein
-References:-References:-References:: : : :...

, Member 5 East, in South Africa. As the blood must have come from a fresh kill, the tool users are likely to have done the killing and used the tools for butchering. Plant residues bonded to the silicon
Silicon
Silicon is a chemical element with the symbol Si and atomic number 14. A tetravalent metalloid, it is less reactive than its chemical analog carbon, the nonmetal directly above it in the periodic table, but more reactive than germanium, the metalloid directly below it in the table...

 of some tools confirm the use to chop plants.

Although the exact species authoring the tools remains unknown, Mode 1 tools in Africa were manufactured and used predominantly by Homo habilis
Homo habilis
Homo habilis is a species of the genus Homo, which lived from approximately at the beginning of the Pleistocene period. The discovery and description of this species is credited to both Mary and Louis Leakey, who found fossils in Tanzania, East Africa, between 1962 and 1964. Homo habilis Homo...

. They cannot be said to have developed these tools or to have contributed the tradition to technology. They continued a tradition of yet unknown origin. As chimpanzee
Chimpanzee
Chimpanzee, sometimes colloquially chimp, is the common name for the two extant species of ape in the genus Pan. The Congo River forms the boundary between the native habitat of the two species:...

s sometimes naturally use percussion to extract or prepare food in the wild, and may use either unmodified stones or stones that they have split, creating an Oldowan tool, the tradition may well be far older than its current record.

Towards the end of Oldowan in Africa a new species appeared over the range of Homo habilis: Homo erectus. The earliest "unambiguous" evidence is a whole cranium, KNM-ER 3733 (a find identifier) from Koobi Fora
Koobi Fora
Koobi Fora refers primarily to a region around Koobi Fora Ridge, located on the eastern shore of Lake Turkana in the territory of the nomadic Gabbra people. According to the National Museums of Kenya, the name comes from the Gabbra language:...

 in Kenya
Kenya
Kenya , officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator, with the Indian Ocean to its south-east...

, dated to 1.78 mya. An early skull fragment, KNM-ER 2598, dated to 1.9 mya, is considered a good candidate also. Transitions in paleoanthropology are always hard to find, if not impossible, but based on the "long-legged" limb morphology
Comparative foot morphology
Comparative foot morphology is exemplified through study of the form of distal limb structures of a variety of terrestrial vertebrates. A challenge to understanding the role of the feet of a variety of different organisms is the wide range of body types, foot shapes, arrangement of structures,...

 shared by H. habilis and H. rudolfensis in East Africa, an evolution from one of those two has been suggested.

The most immediate cause of the new adjustments appears to have been an increasing aridity in the region and consequent contraction of parkland savanna
Savanna
A savanna, or savannah, is a grassland ecosystem characterized by the trees being sufficiently small or widely spaced so that the canopy does not close. The open canopy allows sufficient light to reach the ground to support an unbroken herbaceous layer consisting primarily of C4 grasses.Some...

, interspersed with trees and groves, in favor of open grassland, dated 1.8-1.7 mya. During that transitional period the percentage of grazers among the fossil species increased from 15-25% to 45%, dispersing the food supply and requiring a facility among the hunters to travel longer distances comfortably, which H. erectus obviously had. The ultimate proof is the "dispersal" of H. erectus "across much of Africa and Asia, substantially before the development of the Mode 2 technology and use of fire ...." H. erectus carried Mode 1 tools over Eurasia.

According to the current evidence (which may change at any time) Mode 1 tools are documented from about 2.6 mya to about 1.5 mya in Africa, and to 0.5 mya outside of it. The genus Homo is known from H. habilis and H. rudolfensis from 2.3-2.0 mya, with the latest habilis being an upper jaw from Koobi Fora, Kenya, from 1.4 mya. H. erectus is dated 1.8-0.6 mya.

According to this chronology Mode 1 was inherited by Homo from unknown Hominans
Hominina
The more anthropomorphic primates of the Hominini tribe are placed in the Hominina subtribe. Referred to as hominans, they are characterized by the evolution of an increasingly erect bipedal locomotion. The only extant species is Homo sapiens...

, probably Australopithecus
Australopithecus
Australopithecus is a genus of hominids that is now extinct. From the evidence gathered by palaeontologists and archaeologists, it appears that the Australopithecus genus evolved in eastern Africa around 4 million years ago before spreading throughout the continent and eventually becoming extinct...

and Paranthropus
Paranthropus
The robust australopithecines, members of the extinct hominin genus Paranthropus , were bipedal hominids that probably descended from the gracile australopithecine hominids...

, who must have continued on with Mode 1 and then with Mode 2 until their extinction no later than 1.1 mya. Meanwhile living contemporaneously in the same regions H. habilis inherited the tools around 2.3 mya. At about 1.9 mya H. erectus came on stage and lived contemporaneously with the others. Mode 1 was now being shared by a number of Hominans over the same ranges, presumably subsisting in different niches, but the archaeology is not precise enough to say which.
Oldowan out of Africa

Tools of the Oldowan tradition first came to archaeological attention in Europe, where, being intrusive and not well defined, compared to the Acheulean, they were puzzling to archaeologists. The mystery would be elucidated by African archaeology at Olduvai, but meanwhile, in the early 20th century, the term "Pre-Acheulean" came into use in climatology
Climatology
Climatology is the study of climate, scientifically defined as weather conditions averaged over a period of time, and is a branch of the atmospheric sciences...

. C.E.P, Brooks, a British climatologist working in the United States, used the term to describe a "chalky boulder clay" underlying a layer of gravel at Hoxne
Hoxne
Hoxne is an anciently established village in the Mid Suffolk district of Suffolk, England, about five miles east-southeast of Diss, Norfolk and one-half mile south of the River Waveney...

, central England, where Acheulean tools had been found. Whether any tools would be found in it and what type was not known. Hugo Obermaier
Hugo Obermaier
Hugo Obermaier was a distinguished prehistorian and anthropologist who taught at various European centres of learning...

, a contemporary German archaeologist working in Spain, quipped:
"Unfortunately, the stage of human industry which corresponds to these deposits cannot be positively identified. All we can say is that it is pre-Acheulean...."
This uncertainty was clarified by the subsequent excavations at Olduvai; nevertheless, the term is still in use for pre-Acheulean contexts, mainly across Eurasia, that are yet unspecified or uncertain but with the understanding that they are or will turn out to be pebble-tool.

There are ample associations of Mode 2 with H. erectus in Eurasia. H. erectus — Mode 1 associations are scantier but they do exist, especially in the Far East. One strong piece of evidence prevents the conclusion that only H. erectus reached Eurasia: at Yiron
Yiron
Yir'on is a kibbutz in northern Israel. Located adjacent to the Lebanese border, it falls under the jurisdiction of Upper Galilee Regional Council...

, Israel, Mode 1 tools have been found dating to 2.4 mya, about 0.5 my earlier than the known H. erectus finds. If the date is correct, either another Hominan preceded H. erectus out of Africa or the earliest H. erectus has yet to be found.

After the initial appearance at Gona in Ethiopia at 2.7 mya, pebble tools date from 2.0 mya at Sterkfontein
Sterkfontein
-References:-References:-References:: : : :...

, Member 5, South Africa, and from 1.8 mya at El Kherba, Algeria, North Africa. The manufacturers had already left pebble tools at Yiron
Yiron
Yir'on is a kibbutz in northern Israel. Located adjacent to the Lebanese border, it falls under the jurisdiction of Upper Galilee Regional Council...

, Israel, at 2.4 mya, Riwat
Riwat
Riwat is a Lower Paleolithic site in Punjab, northern Pakistan, providing evidence of Homo occupation that is among the earliest outside Africa, dating to 1.9 million years ago. The site was excavated in 1983.-References:...

, Pakistan, at 2.0 mya, and Renzidong, South China, at over 2 mya. The identification of a fossil skull at Mojokerta, Pernung Peninsula on Java
Java
Java is an island of Indonesia. With a population of 135 million , it is the world's most populous island, and one of the most densely populated regions in the world. It is home to 60% of Indonesia's population. The Indonesian capital city, Jakarta, is in west Java...

, dated to 1.8 mya, as H. erectus, suggests that the African finds are not the earliest to be found in Africa, or that, in fact, erectus did not originate in Africa after all but on the plains of Asia. The outcome of the issue waits for more substantial evidence. Erectus was found also at Dmanisi
Dmanisi
Dmanisi is a townlet and archaeological site in Kvemo Kartli region of Georgia approximately 93 km southwest of the nation’s capital Tbilisi in the river valley of Mashavera.- History :...

, Georgia, from 1.75 mya in association with pebble tools.

Pebble tools are found the latest first in southern Europe and then in northern. They begin in the open areas of Italy and Spain, the earliest dated to 1.6 mya at Pirro Nord, Italy. The mountains of Italy are rising at a rapid rate in the framework of geologic time; at 1.6 mya they were lower and covered with grassland (as much of the highlands still are). Europe was otherwise mountainous and covered over with dense forest, a formidable terrain for warm-weather savanna dwellers. Similarly there is no evidence that the Mediterranean was passable at Gibraltar or anywhere else to H. erectus or earlier hominans. They might have reached Italy and Spain along the coasts.

In northern Europe pebble tools are found earliest at Pakenham
Pakenham
-People:* Edward Pakenham , British general* Thomas Pakenham, several people including:** Thomas Pakenham , British admiral* William Christopher Pakenham , British admiral...

, United Kingdom, from 0.65 mya. The last traces are from Kent's Cavern
Kent's Cavern
Kents Cavern is a cave system in Torquay, Devon, England. It is notable for its archaeological and geological features. The caves are a geological Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Scheduled Ancient Monument , and are open to the public.-Prehistory:The caverns and passages at the site were...

, dated 0.5 mya. By that time H. erectus is regarded as having been extinct; however, a more modern version apparently had evolved, Homo heidelbergensis
Homo heidelbergensis
Homo heidelbergensis is an extinct species of the genus Homo which may be the direct ancestor of both Homo neanderthalensis in Europe and Homo sapiens. The best evidence found for these hominins date between 600,000 and 400,000 years ago. H...

, who must have inherited the tools. He also explains the last of the Acheulean in Germany at 0.4 mya.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries archaeologists worked on the assumptions that a succession of Hominans and cultures prevailed, that one replaced another. Today the presence of multiple hominans living contemporaneously near each other for long periods is accepted as proved true; moreover, by the time the previously assumed "earliest" culture arrived in northern Europe, the rest of Africa and Eurasia had progressed to the Middle and Upper Paleolithic, so that across the earth all three were for a time contemporaneous. In any given region there was a progression from Oldowan to Acheulean, Lower to Upper, no doubt.
Acheulean in Africa


The end of Oldowan in Africa was brought on by the appearance of Acheulean
Acheulean
Acheulean is the name given to an archaeological industry of stone tool manufacture associated with early humans during the Lower Palaeolithic era across Africa and much of West Asia, South Asia and Europe. Acheulean tools are typically found with Homo erectus remains...

, or Mode 2, stone tool
Stone tool
A stone tool is, in the most general sense, any tool made either partially or entirely out of stone. Although stone tool-dependent societies and cultures still exist today, most stone tools are associated with prehistoric, particularly Stone Age cultures that have become extinct...

s. The earliest known instances are in the 1.7-1.6 mya layer at Kokiselei, West Turkana, Kenya. At Sterkfontein
Sterkfontein
-References:-References:-References:: : : :...

, South Africa, they are in Member 5 West, 1.7-1.4 mya. The 1.7 is a fairly certain, fairly standard date. Mode 2 is often found in association with H. erectus. It makes sense that the most advanced tools should have been innovated by the most advanced Hominan; consequently, they are typically given credit for the innovation.

A Mode 2 tool is a biface consisting of two concave surfaces intersecting to form a cutting edge all the way around, except in the case of tools intended to feature a point. More work and planning go into the manufacture of a Mode 2 tool. The manufacturer hits a slab off a larger rock to use as a blank. Then large flakes are struck off the blank and worked them into bifaces by hard-hammer percussion on an anvil stone. Finally the edge is retouched: small flakes are hit off with a bone or wood soft hammer to sharpen or resharpen it. The core can be either the blank or another flake. Blanks are ported for manufacturing supply in places where nature has provided no suitable stone.

Although most Mode 2 tools are easily distinguished from Mode 1, there is a close similarity of some Oldowan and some Acheulean, which can lead to confusion. Some Oldowan tools are more carefully prepared to form a more regular edge. One distinguishing criterion is the size of the flakes. In contrast to the Oldowan "small flake" tradition, Acheulean is "large flake:"
"The primary technological distinction remaining between Oldowan and the Acheulean is the preference for large flakes (>10 cm) as blanks for making large cutting tools (handaxes and cleavers) in the Acheulean."


"Large Cutting Tool (LCT)" has become part of the standard terminology as well.

In North Africa, the presence of Mode 2 remains a mystery, as the oldest finds are from Thomas Quarry in Morocco
Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

 at 0.9 mya. Archaeological attention, however, shifts to the Jordan Rift Valley, an extension of the East African Rift Valley (the east bank of the Jordan is slowly sliding northward as East Africa is thrust away from Africa). Evidence of use of the Nile Valley is in deficit, but Hominans could easily have reached the palaeo-Jordan river from Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

 along the shores of the Red Sea
Red Sea
The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez...

, one side or the other. A crossing would not have been necessary, but it is more likely there than over a theoretical but unproven land bridge through either Gibraltar
Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

 or Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

.

Meanwhile Acheulean went on in Africa past the 1.0 mya mark and also past the extinction of H. erectus there. The last Acheulean in East Africa is at Olorgesailie
Olorgesailie
Olorgesailie is a geological formation in East Africa containing a group of Lower Paleolithic archaeological sites. It is on the floor of the Eastern Rift Valley in southern Kenya, southwest of Nairobi along the road to Lake Magadi. Olorgesailie is noted for the large number of Acheulean hand...

, Kenya, dated to about 0.9 mya. Its owner was still H. erectus, but in South Africa, Acheulean at Elandsfontein, 1.0-0.6 mya, is associated with Saldanha man
Saldanha man
Saldanha man also known as Saldanha cranium or Elandsfontein cranium are fossilized remains of a hominid species believed to be Homo heidelbergensis. The remains were found in Elandsfontein, located in the Saldanha Bay of South Africa....

, classified as H. heidelbergensis, a more advanced, but not yet modern, descendant most likely of H. erectus. The Thoman Quarry Hominans in Morocco
Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

 similarly are most likely Homo rhodesiensis
Homo rhodesiensis
Homo rhodesiensis is a hominin species described from the fossil Kabwe skull. Other morphologically-comparable remains have been found from the same, or earlier, time period in southern Africa , East Africa and North Africa...

, in the same evolutionary status as H. heidelbergensis.

Acheulean out of Africa

Mode 2 is first known out of Africa at Ubeidiya, Israel, a site now on the Jordan River, then frequented over the long term (hundreds of thousands of years) by Homo
Homo
Homo may refer to:*the Greek prefix ὅμο-, meaning "the same"*the Latin for man, human being*Homo, the taxonomical genus including modern humans...

 on the shore of a variable-level palaeo-lake, long since vanished. The geology was created by successive "transgression and regression" of the lake resulting in four cycles of layers. The tools are located in the first two, Cycles Li (Limnic Inferior) and Fi (Fluviatile Inferior), but mostly in Fi. The cycles represent different ecologies and therefore different cross-sections of fauna, which makes it possible to date them. They appear to be the same faunal assemblages as the Ferenta Faunal Unit in Italy, known from excavations at Selvella and Pieterfitta, dated to 1.6-1.2 mya.

At Ubeidiya the marks on the bones of the animal species found there indicate that the manufacturers of the tools butchered the kills of large predators, an activity that has been termed "scavenging." There are no living floors, nor did they process bones to obtain the marrow. These activities cannot be understood therefore as the only or even the typical economic activity of Hominans. Their interests were selective: they were primarily harvesting the meat of Cervids, which is estimated to have been available without spoiling for up to four days after the kill.

The majority of the animals at the site were of "Palaearctic biogeographic origin." However, these overlapped in range on 30-60% of "African biogeographic origin." The biome
Biome
Biomes are climatically and geographically defined as similar climatic conditions on the Earth, such as communities of plants, animals, and soil organisms, and are often referred to as ecosystems. Some parts of the earth have more or less the same kind of abiotic and biotic factors spread over a...

 was Mediterranean, not savanna. The animals were not passing through; there was simply an overlap of normal ranges. Of the Hominans, H. erectus left several cranial fragments. Teeth of undetermined species may have been H. ergaster. The tools are classified as "Lower Acheulean" and "Developed Oldowan." The latter is a disputed classification created by Mary Leakey
Mary Leakey
Mary Leakey was a British archaeologist and anthropologist, who discovered the first skull of a fossil ape on Rusinga Island and also a noted robust Australopithecine called Zinjanthropus at Olduvai. For much of her career she worked together with her husband, Louis Leakey, in Olduvai Gorge,...

 to describe an Acheulean-like tradition in Bed II at Olduvai. It is dated 1.53-1.27 mya. The date of the tools therefore probably does not exceed 1.5 mya; 1.4 is often given as a date. This chronology, which is definitely later than in Kenya, supports the "out of Africa" hypothesis for Acheulean, if not for the Hominans.

From Southwest Asia, as the Levant is now called, the Acheulean extended itself more slowly eastward, arriving at Isampur, India, about 1.2 mya. It does not appear in China and Korea until after 1mya and not at all in Indonesia. There is a discernible boundary marking the furthest extent of the Acheulean eastward before 1 mya, called the Movius Line
Movius Line
The Movius Line is a theoretical line drawn across northern India first proposed by the American archaeologist Hallam L. Movius in 1948 to demonstrate a technological difference between the early prehistoric tool technologies of the east and west of the Old World.Movius had noticed that assemblages...

, after its proposer, Hallam L. Movius
Hallam L. Movius
Hallam Leonard Movius was an American archaeologist most famous for his work on the palaeolithic period.He was born in Newton, Massachusetts and became a professor of archaeology at Harvard University in 1930...

. On the east side of the line the small flake tradition continues, but the tools are additionally worked Mode 1, with flaking down the sides.

The cause of the Movius Line remains speculative, whether it represents a real change in technology or a limitation of archeology, but after 1 mya evidence not available to Movius indicates the prevalence of Acheulean. For example, the Acheulean site at Bose, China, is dated 0.803±3K mya. The authors of this chronologically later East Asian Acheulean remain unknown, as does whether it evolved in the region or was brought in.

There is no named boundary line between Mode 1 and Mode 2 on the west; nevertheless, Mode 2 is equally late in Europe as it is in the Far East. The earliest comes from a rock shelter at Estrecho de Quípar in Spain, dated to greater than 0.9 mya. Teeth from an undetermined Hominan were found there also. The last Mode 2 in Southern Europe is from a deposit at Fontana Ranuccio near Anagni
Anagni
Anagni is an ancient town and comune in Latium, central Italy, in the hills east-southeast of Rome. It is a historical center in Ciociaria.-Geography:...

 in Italy dated to 0.45 mya, which is generally linked to Homo cepranensis
Homo cepranensis
Homo cepranensis is a proposed name for a human species, known from only one skull cap discovered in 1994. The fossil was discovered by archeologist Italo Biddittu and was nicknamed "Ceprano Man" after a nearby town in the province of Frosinone, 89 kilometers Southeast of Rome, Italy.The age of...

, a "late variant of H. erectus," a fragment of whose skull was found at Ceprano nearby, dated 0.46 mya.

Middle Palaeolithic

This period is best known as the era in Europe and the Near East during which the Neanderthal
Neanderthal
The Neanderthal is an extinct member of the Homo genus known from Pleistocene specimens found in Europe and parts of western and central Asia...

s lived (c. 300,000–28,000 years ago). Their technology is mainly the Mousterian
Mousterian
Mousterian is a name given by archaeologists to a style of predominantly flint tools associated primarily with Homo neanderthalensis and dating to the Middle Paleolithic, the middle part of the Old Stone Age.-Naming:...

 but Neanderthal physical characteristics have been found also in ambiguous association with the more recent Châtelperronian
Châtelperronian
Châtelperronian was the earliest industry of the Upper Palaeolithic in central and south western France, extending also into Northern Spain. It derives its name from the site of la Grotte des Fées, in Châtelperron, Allier, France....

 archeological culture in Western Europe and several local industries like the Szeletian in Eastern Europe/Eurasia. There is no evidence for Neanderthals in Africa, Australia or the Americas.

Neanderthals nursed their elderly and practised ritual
Ritual
A ritual is a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value. It may be prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community. The term usually excludes actions which are arbitrarily chosen by the performers....

 burial indicating an organised society. The earliest evidence (Mungo Man) of settlement in Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 dates to around 40,000 years ago when modern humans likely crossed from Asia by island-hopping. Evidence for symbolic behavior such as body ornamentation and burial is ambiguous for the Middle Paleolithic and still subject to debate. The Bhimbetka rock shelters exhibit the earliest traces of human life in India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, some of which are approximately 30,000 years old.

Upper Palaeolithic

From 50,000 to 10,000 years ago in Europe, the Upper Paleolithic ends with the end of the Pleistocene and onset of the Holocene era (the end of the last ice age). Modern humans spread out further across the Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

 during the period known as the Upper Palaeolithic. The Upper Paleolithic is marked by a relatively rapid succession of often complex stone artifact technologies and a large increase in the creation of art and personal ornaments. During period between 35 and 10 kya evolved: from 38 to 30 kya Châtelperronian
Châtelperronian
Châtelperronian was the earliest industry of the Upper Palaeolithic in central and south western France, extending also into Northern Spain. It derives its name from the site of la Grotte des Fées, in Châtelperron, Allier, France....

, 40–28 Aurignacian
Aurignacian
The Aurignacian culture is an archaeological culture of the Upper Palaeolithic, located in Europe and southwest Asia. It lasted broadly within the period from ca. 45,000 to 35,000 years ago in terms of conventional radiocarbon dating, or between ca. 47,000 and 41,000 years ago in terms of the most...

, 28–22 Gravettian
Gravettian
thumb|right|Burins to the Gravettian culture.The Gravettian toolmaking culture was a specific archaeological industry of the European Upper Palaeolithic era prevalent before the last glacial epoch. It is named after the type site of La Gravette in the Dordogne region of France where its...

, 22–17 Solutrean
Solutrean
The Solutrean industry is a relatively advanced flint tool-making style of the Upper Palaeolithic, from around 22,000 to 17,000 BP.-Details:...

, and 18–10 Magdalenian
Magdalenian
The Magdalenian , refers to one of the later cultures of the Upper Paleolithic in western Europe, dating from around 17,000 BP to 9,000 BP...

. All of these industries except the Châtelperronian are associated with anatomically modern humans. Authorship of the Châtelperronian is still the subject of much debate.

The Americas were colonised via the Bering land bridge
Bering land bridge
The Bering land bridge was a land bridge roughly 1,000 miles wide at its greatest extent, which joined present-day Alaska and eastern Siberia at various times during the Pleistocene ice ages. Like most of Siberia and all of Manchuria, Beringia was not glaciated because snowfall was extremely light...

 which was exposed during this period by lower sea levels. These people are called the Paleo-Indians, and the earliest accepted dates are those of the Clovis culture
Clovis culture
The Clovis culture is a prehistoric Paleo-Indian culture that first appears 11,500 RCYBP , at the end of the last glacial period, characterized by the manufacture of "Clovis points" and distinctive bone and ivory tools...

 sites, some 13,500 years ago. Globally, societies were hunter-gatherer
Hunter-gatherer
A hunter-gatherer or forage society is one in which most or all food is obtained from wild plants and animals, in contrast to agricultural societies which rely mainly on domesticated species. Hunting and gathering was the ancestral subsistence mode of Homo, and all modern humans were...

s but evidence of regional identities begins to appear in the wide variety of stone tool types being developed to suit very different environments.

Epipalaeolithic/Mesolithic

Main articles: Epipalaeolithic, Mesolithic
Mesolithic
The Mesolithic is an archaeological concept used to refer to certain groups of archaeological cultures defined as falling between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic....



The period starting from the end of the last ice age, 10,000 years ago, to around 6,000 years ago was characterized by rising sea levels and a need to adapt to a changing environment and find new food sources. The development of Mode 5 (microlith
Microlith
A microlith is a small stone tool usually made of flint or chert and typically a centimetre or so in length and half a centimetre wide. It is produced from either a small blade or a larger blade-like piece of flint by abrupt or truncated retouching, which leaves a very typical piece of waste,...

) tools began in response to these changes. They were derived from the previous Palaeolithic tools, hence the term Epipalaeolithic, or were intermediate between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic, hence the term Mesolithic
Mesolithic
The Mesolithic is an archaeological concept used to refer to certain groups of archaeological cultures defined as falling between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic....

 (Middle Stone Age). The choice of a word depends on exact circumstances and the inclination of the archaeologists excavating the site. Microliths were used in the manufacture of more efficient composite tools, resulting in an intensification of hunting and fishing and with increasing social activity the development of more complex settlements, such as Lepenski Vir
Lepenski Vir
Lepenski Vir is an important Mesolithic archaeological site located in Serbia in the central Balkan peninsula. It consists of one large settlement with around ten satellite villages. The evidence suggests the first human presence in the locality around 7000 BC with the culture reaching its peak...

. Domestication of the dog
Dog
The domestic dog is a domesticated form of the gray wolf, a member of the Canidae family of the order Carnivora. The term is used for both feral and pet varieties. The dog may have been the first animal to be domesticated, and has been the most widely kept working, hunting, and companion animal in...

 as a hunting companion probably dates to this period.

The earliest known battle occurred during the Mesolithic period at a site in Egypt known as Cemetery 117
Cemetery 117
Cemetery 117 is an ancient cemetery discovered in 1964 by a team led by Fred Wendorf near the northern border of Sudan. The remains discovered there were determined to be around 13,140 to 14,340 years old....

.

Neolithic

The Neolithic
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

, New Stone Age, was approximately characterized by the adoption of agriculture
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

, the shift from food gathering to food producing in itself is one of the most revolutionary changes in human history so-called Neolithic Revolution
Neolithic Revolution
The Neolithic Revolution was the first agricultural revolution. It was the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture and settlement. Archaeological data indicates that various forms of plants and animal domestication evolved independently in 6 separate locations worldwide circa...

, the development of pottery
Pottery
Pottery is the material from which the potteryware is made, of which major types include earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. The place where such wares are made is also called a pottery . Pottery also refers to the art or craft of the potter or the manufacture of pottery...

, polished stone tools and more complex, larger settlements such as Çatal Hüyük and Jericho
Jericho
Jericho ; is a city located near the Jordan River in the West Bank of the Palestinian territories. It is the capital of the Jericho Governorate and has a population of more than 20,000. Situated well below sea level on an east-west route north of the Dead Sea, Jericho is the lowest permanently...

. Some of these features began in certain localities even earlier, in the transitional Mesolithic. The first Neolithic cultures started around 7000 BCE in the fertile crescent
Fertile Crescent
The Fertile Crescent, nicknamed "The Cradle of Civilization" for the fact the first civilizations started there, is a crescent-shaped region containing the comparatively moist and fertile land of otherwise arid and semi-arid Western Asia. The term was first used by University of Chicago...

 and spread concentrically to other areas of the world; however, the Near East was probably not the only nucleus of agriculture, the cultivation of maize
Maize
Maize known in many English-speaking countries as corn or mielie/mealie, is a grain domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. The leafy stalk produces ears which contain seeds called kernels. Though technically a grain, maize kernels are used in cooking as a vegetable...

 in Meso-America and of rice
Oryza sativa
Oryza sativa, commonly known as Asian rice, is the plant species most commonly referred to in English as rice. Oryza sativa is the cereal with the smallest genome, consisting of just 430Mb across 12 chromosomes...

 in the Far East being others.

Due to the increased need to harvest and process plants, ground stone and polished stone artifacts became much more widespread, including tools for grinding, cutting, and chopping. Skara Brae
Skara Brae
Skara Brae is a large stone-built Neolithic settlement, located on the Bay of Skaill on the west coast of Mainland, Orkney, Scotland. It consists of ten clustered houses, and was occupied from roughly 3180 BCE–2500 BCE...

 located on Orkney island off Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 is one of Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

's best examples of a Neolithic village. The community contains stone beds, shelves and even an indoor toilet linked to a stream. The first large-scale constructions were built, including settlement towers and walls, e.g., Jericho
Jericho
Jericho ; is a city located near the Jordan River in the West Bank of the Palestinian territories. It is the capital of the Jericho Governorate and has a population of more than 20,000. Situated well below sea level on an east-west route north of the Dead Sea, Jericho is the lowest permanently...

 and ceremonial sites, e.g.: Stonehenge
Stonehenge
Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument located in the English county of Wiltshire, about west of Amesbury and north of Salisbury. One of the most famous sites in the world, Stonehenge is composed of a circular setting of large standing stones set within earthworks...

. The Ġgantija
Ggantija
Ġgantija is a Neolithic, megalithic temple complex on the Mediterranean island of Gozo. The Ġgantija temples are the earliest of a series of megalithic temples in Malta. Their makers erected the two Ġgantija temples during the Neolithic Age , which makes these temples more than 5500 years old and...

 temples of Gozo in the Maltese archipelago are the oldest surviving free standing structures in the world, erected c. 3600-2500 BCE. The earliest evidence for established trade
Trade
Trade is the transfer of ownership of goods and services from one person or entity to another. Trade is sometimes loosely called commerce or financial transaction or barter. A network that allows trade is called a market. The original form of trade was barter, the direct exchange of goods and...

 exists in the Neolithic
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 with newly settled people importing exotic goods over distances of many hundreds of miles.

These facts show that there were sufficient resources and co-operation to enable large groups to work on these projects. To what extent this was a basis for the development of elites and social hierarchies is a matter of on-going debate. Although some late Neolithic societies formed complex stratified chiefdoms similar to Polynesian societies such as the Ancient Hawaii
Ancient Hawaii
Ancient Hawaii refers to the period of Hawaiian human history preceding the unification of the Kingdom of Hawaii by Kamehameha the Great in 1810. After being first settled by Polynesian long-distance navigators sometime between AD 300–800, a unique culture developed. Diversified agroforestry and...

ans, based on the societies of modern tribesmen at an equivalent technological level, most Neolithic societies were relatively simple and egalitarian. A comparison of art in the two ages leads some theorists to conclude that Neolithic cultures were noticeably more hierarchical than the Paleolithic
Paleolithic
The Paleolithic Age, Era or Period, is a prehistoric period of human history distinguished by the development of the most primitive stone tools discovered , and covers roughly 99% of human technological prehistory...

 cultures that preceded them.

The Earlier or Early Stone Age (ESA)

This period is not to be identified with "Old Stone Age", a translation of Paleolithic, or with Paleolithic, or with the "Earlier Stone Age" that originally meant what became the Paleolithic and Mesolithic. In the initial decades of its definition by the Pan-African Congress of Prehistory, it was parallel in Africa to the Upper
Upper Paleolithic
The Upper Paleolithic is the third and last subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age as it is understood in Europe, Africa and Asia. Very broadly it dates to between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago, roughly coinciding with the appearance of behavioral modernity and before the advent of...

 and Middle Paleolithic
Middle Paleolithic
The Middle Paleolithic is the second subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age as it is understood in Europe, Africa and Asia. The term Middle Stone Age is used as an equivalent or a synonym for the Middle Paleolithic in African archeology. The Middle Paleolithic and the Middle Stone Age...

. However, since then Radiocarbon dating
Radiocarbon dating
Radiocarbon dating is a radiometric dating method that uses the naturally occurring radioisotope carbon-14 to estimate the age of carbon-bearing materials up to about 58,000 to 62,000 years. Raw, i.e. uncalibrated, radiocarbon ages are usually reported in radiocarbon years "Before Present" ,...

 has shown that the Middle Stone Age is in fact contemporaneous with the Middle Paleolithic
Middle Paleolithic
The Middle Paleolithic is the second subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age as it is understood in Europe, Africa and Asia. The term Middle Stone Age is used as an equivalent or a synonym for the Middle Paleolithic in African archeology. The Middle Paleolithic and the Middle Stone Age...

. The Early Stone Age therefore is contemporaneous with the Lower Paleolithic
Lower Paleolithic
The Lower Paleolithic is the earliest subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age. It spans the time from around 2.5 million years ago when the first evidence of craft and use of stone tools by hominids appears in the current archaeological record, until around 300,000 years ago, spanning the...

 and happens to include the same main technologies, Oldowan and Acheulean
Acheulean
Acheulean is the name given to an archaeological industry of stone tool manufacture associated with early humans during the Lower Palaeolithic era across Africa and much of West Asia, South Asia and Europe. Acheulean tools are typically found with Homo erectus remains...

, which produced Mode 1 and Mode 2 stone tool
Stone tool
A stone tool is, in the most general sense, any tool made either partially or entirely out of stone. Although stone tool-dependent societies and cultures still exist today, most stone tools are associated with prehistoric, particularly Stone Age cultures that have become extinct...

s respectively. A distinct regional term is warranted, however, by the location and chronology of the sites and the exact typology.

The Middle Stone Age (MSA)

The Middle Stone Age was a period of Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

n prehistory between Early Stone Age and Late Stone Age. It began around 300,000 years ago and ended around 50,000 years ago. It is considered as an equivalent of European Middle Paleolithic
Middle Paleolithic
The Middle Paleolithic is the second subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age as it is understood in Europe, Africa and Asia. The term Middle Stone Age is used as an equivalent or a synonym for the Middle Paleolithic in African archeology. The Middle Paleolithic and the Middle Stone Age...

. It is associated with anatomically modern or almost modern Homo sapiens. Early physical evidence comes from Omo and Herto, both in Ethiopia and dated respectively at c. 195 ka and at c. 160 ka.

The Later Stone Age (LSA)

The Later Stone Age (LSA, sometimes also called the Late Stone Age) refers to a period in African prehistory. Its beginnings are roughly contemporaneous with the European Upper Paleolithic. It lasts until historical times and thus includes cultures corresponding to Mesolithic and Neolithic in other regions.

Tools

Stone tool
Stone tool
A stone tool is, in the most general sense, any tool made either partially or entirely out of stone. Although stone tool-dependent societies and cultures still exist today, most stone tools are associated with prehistoric, particularly Stone Age cultures that have become extinct...

s were made from a variety of stone. For example, flint
Flint
Flint is a hard, sedimentary cryptocrystalline form of the mineral quartz, categorized as a variety of chert. It occurs chiefly as nodules and masses in sedimentary rocks, such as chalks and limestones. Inside the nodule, flint is usually dark grey, black, green, white, or brown in colour, and...

 and chert
Chert
Chert is a fine-grained silica-rich microcrystalline, cryptocrystalline or microfibrous sedimentary rock that may contain small fossils. It varies greatly in color , but most often manifests as gray, brown, grayish brown and light green to rusty red; its color is an expression of trace elements...

 were shaped (or chipped) for use as cutting tools and weapon
Weapon
A weapon, arm, or armament is a tool or instrument used with the aim of causing damage or harm to living beings or artificial structures or systems...

s, while basalt
Basalt
Basalt is a common extrusive volcanic rock. It is usually grey to black and fine-grained due to rapid cooling of lava at the surface of a planet. It may be porphyritic containing larger crystals in a fine matrix, or vesicular, or frothy scoria. Unweathered basalt is black or grey...

 and sandstone
Sandstone
Sandstone is a sedimentary rock composed mainly of sand-sized minerals or rock grains.Most sandstone is composed of quartz and/or feldspar because these are the most common minerals in the Earth's crust. Like sand, sandstone may be any colour, but the most common colours are tan, brown, yellow,...

 were used for ground stone
Ground stone
In archaeology, ground stone is a category of stone tool formed by the grinding of a coarse-grained tool stone, either purposely or incidentally. Ground stone tools are usually made of basalt, rhyolite, granite, or other macrocrystalline igneous stones whose coarse structure makes them ideal for...

 tools, such as quern-stone
Quern-stone
Quern-stones are stone tools for hand grinding a wide variety of materials. They were used in pairs. The lower, stationary, stone is called a quern, whilst the upper, mobile, stone is called a handstone...

s. Wood
Wood
Wood is a hard, fibrous tissue found in many trees. It has been used for hundreds of thousands of years for both fuel and as a construction material. It is an organic material, a natural composite of cellulose fibers embedded in a matrix of lignin which resists compression...

, bone
Bone
Bones are rigid organs that constitute part of the endoskeleton of vertebrates. They support, and protect the various organs of the body, produce red and white blood cells and store minerals. Bone tissue is a type of dense connective tissue...

, shell, antler
Antler
Antlers are the usually large, branching bony appendages on the heads of most deer species.-Etymology:Antler originally meant the lowest tine, the "brow tine"...

 (deer) and other materials were widely used, as well. During the most recent part of the period, sediment
Sediment
Sediment is naturally occurring material that is broken down by processes of weathering and erosion, and is subsequently transported by the action of fluids such as wind, water, or ice, and/or by the force of gravity acting on the particle itself....

s (such as clay
Clay
Clay is a general term including many combinations of one or more clay minerals with traces of metal oxides and organic matter. Geologic clay deposits are mostly composed of phyllosilicate minerals containing variable amounts of water trapped in the mineral structure.- Formation :Clay minerals...

) were used to make pottery
Pottery
Pottery is the material from which the potteryware is made, of which major types include earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. The place where such wares are made is also called a pottery . Pottery also refers to the art or craft of the potter or the manufacture of pottery...

. Agriculture
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

 was developed and certain animals were domesticated
Domestication
Domestication or taming is the process whereby a population of animals or plants, through a process of selection, becomes accustomed to human provision and control. In the Convention on Biological Diversity a domesticated species is defined as a 'species in which the evolutionary process has been...

.

Some species of non-Primate
Primate
A primate is a mammal of the order Primates , which contains prosimians and simians. Primates arose from ancestors that lived in the trees of tropical forests; many primate characteristics represent adaptations to life in this challenging three-dimensional environment...

s are able to use stone tools, such as the Sea Otter
Sea Otter
The sea otter is a marine mammal native to the coasts of the northern and eastern North Pacific Ocean. Adult sea otters typically weigh between 14 and 45 kg , making them the heaviest members of the weasel family, but among the smallest marine mammals...

, which breaks Abalone
Abalone
Abalone , from aulón, are small to very large-sized edible sea snails, marine gastropod molluscs in the family Haliotidae and the genus Haliotis...

 shells with them. Primate
Primate
A primate is a mammal of the order Primates , which contains prosimians and simians. Primates arose from ancestors that lived in the trees of tropical forests; many primate characteristics represent adaptations to life in this challenging three-dimensional environment...

s can both use and manufacture stone tools. This combination of abilities is more marked in ape
Ape
Apes are Old World anthropoid mammals, more specifically a clade of tailless catarrhine primates, belonging to the biological superfamily Hominoidea. The apes are native to Africa and South-east Asia, although in relatively recent times humans have spread all over the world...

s and men, but only men, or more generally Hominans, depend on tool use for survival. The key anatomical and behavioral features required for tool manufacture, which are possessed only by Hominans, are the larger thumb and the ability to hold by means of an assortment of grips.

Food and drink

Food
Food
Food is any substance consumed to provide nutritional support for the body. It is usually of plant or animal origin, and contains essential nutrients, such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, or minerals...

 sources of the Palaeolithic hunter-gatherer
Hunter-gatherer
A hunter-gatherer or forage society is one in which most or all food is obtained from wild plants and animals, in contrast to agricultural societies which rely mainly on domesticated species. Hunting and gathering was the ancestral subsistence mode of Homo, and all modern humans were...

s were wild plants and animals harvested from the environment
Environment (biophysical)
The biophysical environment is the combined modeling of the physical environment and the biological life forms within the environment, and includes all variables, parameters as well as conditions and modes inside the Earth's biosphere. The biophysical environment can be divided into two categories:...

. They liked animal organ
Organ (anatomy)
In biology, an organ is a collection of tissues joined in structural unit to serve a common function. Usually there is a main tissue and sporadic tissues . The main tissue is the one that is unique for the specific organ. For example, main tissue in the heart is the myocardium, while sporadic are...

 meats, including the liver
Liver
The liver is a vital organ present in vertebrates and some other animals. It has a wide range of functions, including detoxification, protein synthesis, and production of biochemicals necessary for digestion...

s, kidney
Kidney
The kidneys, organs with several functions, serve essential regulatory roles in most animals, including vertebrates and some invertebrates. They are essential in the urinary system and also serve homeostatic functions such as the regulation of electrolytes, maintenance of acid–base balance, and...

s and brain
Brain
The brain is the center of the nervous system in all vertebrate and most invertebrate animals—only a few primitive invertebrates such as sponges, jellyfish, sea squirts and starfishes do not have one. It is located in the head, usually close to primary sensory apparatus such as vision, hearing,...

s. Large seeded legumes were part of the human diet long before the agricultural revolution
Neolithic Revolution
The Neolithic Revolution was the first agricultural revolution. It was the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture and settlement. Archaeological data indicates that various forms of plants and animal domestication evolved independently in 6 separate locations worldwide circa...

, as is evident from archaeobotanical finds from the Mousterian
Mousterian
Mousterian is a name given by archaeologists to a style of predominantly flint tools associated primarily with Homo neanderthalensis and dating to the Middle Paleolithic, the middle part of the Old Stone Age.-Naming:...

 layers of Kebara Cave
Kebara Cave
Kebara Cave is an Israeli limestone cave locality of the Wadi Kebara, situated at 60 - 65 metres ASL on the western escarpment of the Carmel Range, some 10km north-east of Caesarea...

, in Israel. Moreover, recent evidence indicates that humans processed and consumed wild cereal grains as far back as 23,000 years ago in the Upper Paleolithic
Upper Paleolithic
The Upper Paleolithic is the third and last subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age as it is understood in Europe, Africa and Asia. Very broadly it dates to between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago, roughly coinciding with the appearance of behavioral modernity and before the advent of...

.

Near the end of the Wisconsin glaciation
Wisconsin glaciation
The last glacial period was the most recent glacial period within the current ice age occurring during the last years of the Pleistocene, from approximately 110,000 to 10,000 years ago....

, 15,000 to 9,000 years ago, mass extinction of Megafauna
Megafauna
In terrestrial zoology, megafauna are "giant", "very large" or "large" animals. The most common thresholds used are or...

 such as the Wooly mammoth occurred in Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

, Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 and Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

. This was the first Holocene extinction event
Holocene extinction event
The Holocene extinction refers to the extinction of species during the present Holocene epoch . The large number of extinctions span numerous families of plants and animals including mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and arthropods; a sizeable fraction of these extinctions are occurring in the...

. It possibly forced modification in the dietary habits of the humans of that age and with the emergence of agricultural practices, plant-based foods also became a regular part of the diet. A number of factors have been suggested for the extinction: certainly over-hunting, but also deforestation and climate change. The net effect was to fragment the vast ranges required by the large animals and extinguish them piecemeal in each fragment.

Shelter and habitat

Around 2 million years ago, Homo habilis
Homo habilis
Homo habilis is a species of the genus Homo, which lived from approximately at the beginning of the Pleistocene period. The discovery and description of this species is credited to both Mary and Louis Leakey, who found fossils in Tanzania, East Africa, between 1962 and 1964. Homo habilis Homo...

is believed to have constructed the first man-made structure in East Africa
East Africa
East Africa or Eastern Africa is the easterly region of the African continent, variably defined by geography or geopolitics. In the UN scheme of geographic regions, 19 territories constitute Eastern Africa:...

, consisting of simple arrangements of stones to hold branches of trees in position. A similar stone circular arrangement believed to be around 380 thousand years old was discovered at Terra Amata
Terra Amata
Terra Amata is an archeological site in open air located on the slopes of Mount Boron in Nice, at a level 26 meters above the current sea level of the Mediterranean. It was discovered and excavated in 1966 by Henry de Lumley...

, near Nice
Nice
Nice is the fifth most populous city in France, after Paris, Marseille, Lyon and Toulouse, with a population of 348,721 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Nice extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of more than 955,000 on an area of...

, France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

. (Concerns about the dating have been raised, see Terra Amata
Terra Amata
Terra Amata is an archeological site in open air located on the slopes of Mount Boron in Nice, at a level 26 meters above the current sea level of the Mediterranean. It was discovered and excavated in 1966 by Henry de Lumley...

). Several human habitats dating back to the Stone Age have been discovered around the globe, including:
  • A tent-like structure inside a cave near the Grotte du Lazaret
    Grotte du Lazaret
    The Grotte du Lazaret is a cave now in the eastern suburbs of the French town of Nice and now overlooking the Mediterranean Sea....

    , Nice
    Nice
    Nice is the fifth most populous city in France, after Paris, Marseille, Lyon and Toulouse, with a population of 348,721 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Nice extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of more than 955,000 on an area of...

    , France
    France
    The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

    .
  • A structure
    Dolní Vestonice (archaeology)
    Dolní Věstonice refers to an archaeological site near village Dolní Věstonice in the Czech Republic. The site is unique in that it has been a particularly abundant source of prehistoric artifacts dating from the Gravettian period, which spanned roughly 27,000 to 20,000 B.C...

     with a roof supported with timber, discovered in Dolni Vestonice
    Dolní Vestonice
    Dolní Věstonice is a small village in the South Moravian Region of the Czech Republic. It is known for a series of ice age archaeological sites in the area. These sites were used by mammoth hunters, and finds include a triple burial and the Venus of Dolní Věstonice.A small fortress was built here...

    , The Czech Republic
    Czech Republic
    The Czech Republic is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The country is bordered by Poland to the northeast, Slovakia to the east, Austria to the south, and Germany to the west and northwest....

    , dates to around 23,000 BCE. The walls were made of packed clay blocks and stones.
  • Many huts made of mammoth
    Mammoth
    A mammoth is any species of the extinct genus Mammuthus. These proboscideans are members of Elephantidae, the family of elephants and mammoths, and close relatives of modern elephants. They were often equipped with long curved tusks and, in northern species, a covering of long hair...

     bones were found in Eastern Europe
    Eastern Europe
    Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

     and Siberia
    Siberia
    Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

    . The people who made these huts were expert mammoth hunters. Examples have been found along the Dniepr river valley of Ukraine
    Ukraine
    Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

    , including near Chernihiv
    Chernihiv
    Chernihiv or Chernigov is a historic city in northern Ukraine. It is the administrative center of the Chernihiv Oblast , as well as of the surrounding Chernihivskyi Raion within the oblast...

    , in Moravia
    Moravia
    Moravia is a historical region in Central Europe in the east of the Czech Republic, and one of the former Czech lands, together with Bohemia and Silesia. It takes its name from the Morava River which rises in the northwest of the region...

    , Czech Republic
    Czech Republic
    The Czech Republic is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The country is bordered by Poland to the northeast, Slovakia to the east, Austria to the south, and Germany to the west and northwest....

     and in southern Poland
    Poland
    Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

    .
  • An animal hide tent dated to around 15000 to 10000 BCE, in the Magdalenian
    Magdalenian
    The Magdalenian , refers to one of the later cultures of the Upper Paleolithic in western Europe, dating from around 17,000 BP to 9,000 BP...

    , was discovered at Plateau Parain, France
    France
    The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

    .
  • Megalithic tombs, multichambered, and dolmen
    Dolmen
    A dolmen—also known as a portal tomb, portal grave, dolmain , cromlech , anta , Hünengrab/Hünenbett , Adamra , Ispun , Hunebed , dös , goindol or quoit—is a type of single-chamber megalithic tomb, usually consisting of...

    s, single-chambered, were graves
    Grave (burial)
    A grave is a location where a dead body is buried. Graves are usually located in special areas set aside for the purpose of burial, such as graveyards or cemeteries....

     with a huge stone slab stacked over other similarly large stone slabs; they have been discovered all across Europe
    Europe
    Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

     and Asia
    Asia
    Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

     and were built in the Neolithic
    Neolithic
    The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

     and the Bronze Age
    Bronze Age
    The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

    .

Art

Prehistoric art
Prehistoric art
In the history of art, prehistoric art is all art produced in preliterate, prehistorical cultures beginning somewhere in very late geological history, and generally continuing until that culture either develops writing or other methods of record-keeping, or it makes significant contact with another...

 is visible in the artifacts. Prehistoric music
Prehistoric music
Prehistoric music is a term in the history of music for all music produced in preliterate cultures , beginning somewhere in very late geological history...

 is inferred from found instruments, while parietal art
Parietal art
Parietal art is artwork done on cave walls or large blocks of stone. One of the most famous examples of parietal art is the Grotte Chauvet in France. Parietal art, or cave art, refers to paintings, murals, drawings, etchings, carvings, and pecked artwork on the interior of rock shelters and caves....

 can be found on rocks of any kind. The latter are petroglyphs and rock paintings. The art may or may not have had a religious
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

 function.

Petroglyphs

Petroglyph
Petroglyph
Petroglyphs are pictogram and logogram images created by removing part of a rock surface by incising, picking, carving, and abrading. Outside North America, scholars often use terms such as "carving", "engraving", or other descriptions of the technique to refer to such images...

s appeared in the Neolithic
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

. A Petroglyph is an intaglio
Intaglio
Intaglio are techniques in art in which an image is created by cutting, carving or engraving into a flat surface and may also refer to objects made using these techniques:* Intaglio , a group of printmaking techniques with an incised image...

 abstract or symbolic image engraved on natural stone by various methods, usually by prehistoric peoples. They were a dominant form of pre-writing symbols. Petroglyphs have been discovered in different parts of the world, including Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

 (Bhimbetka, India
Bhimbetka
The Bhimbetka rock shelters are an archaeological World Heritage site located in Raisen District in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. The Bhimbetka shelters exhibit the earliest traces of human life in India; a number of analyses suggest that at least some of these shelters were inhabited by man...

), North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 (Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park is a national park in the U.S. states of California and Nevada located east of the Sierra Nevada in the arid Great Basin of the United States. The park protects the northwest corner of the Mojave Desert and contains a diverse desert environment of salt-flats, sand dunes,...

), South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

 (Cumbe Mayo
Cumbe Mayo
Cumbe Mayo is located about 12 miles southwest of the Peruvian city of Cajamarca, at an elevation of approximately 11,000 feet . The location is best known for the ruins of a Pre-Incan aqueduct stretching approximately five miles in length. The aqueduct collected water from the Atlantic...

, Peru
Peru
Peru , officially the Republic of Peru , is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean....

), and Europe (Finnmark, Norway
Rock carvings at Alta
The Rock art of Alta are located in and around the municipality of Alta in the county of Finnmark in northern Norway. Since the first carvings were discovered in 1972, more than 6000 carvings have been found on several sites around Alta...

).

Rock paintings

In paleolithic times, mostly animals were painted, in theory ones that were used as food or represented strength, such as the rhinoceros
Rhinoceros
Rhinoceros , also known as rhino, is a group of five extant species of odd-toed ungulates in the family Rhinocerotidae. Two of these species are native to Africa and three to southern Asia....

 or large cats
Felidae
Felidae is the biological family of the cats; a member of this family is called a felid. Felids are the strictest carnivores of the thirteen terrestrial families in the order Carnivora, although the three families of marine mammals comprising the superfamily pinnipedia are as carnivorous as the...

 (as in the Chauvet Cave
Chauvet Cave
The Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc Cave is a cave in the Ardèche department of southern France that contains the earliest known cave paintings, as well as other evidence of Upper Paleolithic life. It is located near the commune of Vallon-Pont-d'Arc on a limestone cliff above the former bed of the Ardèche River...

). Signs such as dots were sometimes drawn. Rare human representations include handprints and half-human/half-animal figures. The Cave of Chauvet in the Ardèche
Ardèche
Ardèche is a department in south-central France named after the Ardèche River.- History :The area has been inhabited by humans at least since the Upper Paleolithic, as attested by the famous cave paintings at Chauvet Pont d'Arc. The plateau of the Ardeche River has extensive standing stones ,...

 département, France, contains the most important cave paintings of the paleolithic era, dating from about 31,000 BCE. The Altamira
Altamira (cave)
Altamira is a cave in Spain famous for its Upper Paleolithic cave paintings featuring drawings and polychrome rock paintings of wild mammals and human hands....

 cave paintings in Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 were done 14,000 to 12,000 BCE and show, among others, bison
Bison
Members of the genus Bison are large, even-toed ungulates within the subfamily Bovinae. Two extant and four extinct species are recognized...

s. The hall of bulls in Lascaux
Lascaux
Lascaux is the setting of a complex of caves in southwestern France famous for its Paleolithic cave paintings. The original caves are located near the village of Montignac, in the department of Dordogne. They contain some of the best-known Upper Paleolithic art. These paintings are estimated to be...

, Dordogne
Dordogne
Dordogne is a départment in south-west France. The départment is located in the region of Aquitaine, between the Loire valley and the High Pyrénées named after the great river Dordogne that runs through it...

, France, dates from about 15,000 to 10,000 BCE.

The meaning of many of these paintings remains unknown. They may have been used for seasonal rituals. The animals are accompanied by signs that suggest a possible magic use. Arrow-like symbols in Lascaux are sometimes interpreted as calendar
Calendar
A calendar is a system of organizing days for social, religious, commercial, or administrative purposes. This is done by giving names to periods of time, typically days, weeks, months, and years. The name given to each day is known as a date. Periods in a calendar are usually, though not...

 or almanac
Almanac
An almanac is an annual publication that includes information such as weather forecasts, farmers' planting dates, and tide tables, containing tabular information in a particular field or fields often arranged according to the calendar etc...

 use, but the evidence remains interpretive.

Some scenes of the Mesolithic, however, can be typed and therefore, judging from their various modifications, are fairly clear. One of these is the battle scene between organized bands of archers. For example, "the marching Warriors," a rock painting at Cingle de la Mola, Castellón
Castellón de la Plana
Castellón de la Plana or Castelló de la Plana is the capital city of the province of Castelló, in the Valencian Community, Spain, in the east of the Iberian Peninsula, on the Costa del Azahar by the Mediterranean Sea...

 in Spain, dated to about 7,000–4,000 BCE, depicts about 50 bowmen in two groups marching or running in step toward each other, each man carrying a bow in one hand and a fistful of arrows in the other. A file of five men leads one band, one of whom is a figure with a "high crowned hat." In other scenes elsewhere, the men wear head-dresses and knee ornaments but otherwise fight nude. Some scenes depict the dead and wounded, bristling with arrows. One is reminded of Ötzi the Iceman
Ötzi the Iceman
Ötzi the Iceman , Similaun Man, and Man from Hauslabjoch are modern names for a well-preserved natural mummy of a man who lived about 5,300 years ago. The mummy was found in September 1991 in the Ötztal Alps, near Hauslabjoch on the border between Austria and Italy. The nickname comes from the...

, a Copper Age mummy revealed by an Alpine melting glacier, who collapsed from loss of blood due to an arrow wound in the back.

Stone Age rituals and beliefs

Modern studies and the in-depth analysis of finds dating from the Stone Age indicate certain ritual
Ritual
A ritual is a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value. It may be prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community. The term usually excludes actions which are arbitrarily chosen by the performers....

s and belief
Belief
Belief is the psychological state in which an individual holds a proposition or premise to be true.-Belief, knowledge and epistemology:The terms belief and knowledge are used differently in philosophy....

s of the people in those prehistoric times. It is now believed that activities of the Stone Age humans went beyond the immediate requirements of procuring food, body coverings, and shelters. Specific rite
Rite
A rite is an established, ceremonious, usually religious act. Rites in this sense fall into three major categories:* rites of passage, generally changing an individual's social status, such as marriage, baptism, or graduation....

s relating to death and burial
Burial
Burial is the act of placing a person or object into the ground. This is accomplished by excavating a pit or trench, placing an object in it, and covering it over.-History:...

 were practiced, though certainly differing in style and execution between cultures.

Modern popular culture and the Stone Age

The image of the caveman
Caveman
A caveman or troglodyte is a stock character based upon widespread concepts of the way in which early prehistoric humans may have looked and behaved...

 is commonly associated with the Stone Age. For example, the 2003 documentary series showing the evolution of humans through the Stone Age was called Walking with Cavemen
Walking with Cavemen
Walking with Cavemen is a four-part television documentary series about human evolution produced by the BBC in the United Kingdom. It was originally released in April 2003. It was subsequently presented in the United States as a two-part series by the Discovery Channel and its affiliates...

, although only the last programme showed humans living in caves. While the idea that human beings and dinosaur
Dinosaur
Dinosaurs are a diverse group of animals of the clade and superorder Dinosauria. They were the dominant terrestrial vertebrates for over 160 million years, from the late Triassic period until the end of the Cretaceous , when the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event led to the extinction of...

s coexisted is sometimes portrayed in popular culture in cartoons, films and computer games, such as The Flintstones
The Flintstones
The Flintstones is an animated, prime-time American television sitcom that screened from September 30, 1960 to April 1, 1966, on ABC. Produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions, The Flintstones was about a working class Stone Age man's life with his family and his next-door neighbor and best friend. It...

, One Million Years B.C.
One Million Years B.C.
One Million Years B.C. is a 1966 British adventure/fantasy film starring Raquel Welch, set - loosely - in the time of cavemen. The film was made by Hammer Film Productions, and was a remake of the 1940 Hollywood film One Million B.C., and it recreates many of the scenes of that film...

and Chuck Rock
Chuck Rock
Chuck Rock is a slapstick side-scrolling platform video game of the early to mid 1990s, which was initially created by Core Design in 1991 and was subsequently ported to a large number of home consoles of the time over the next few years....

, the notion of hominids and non-avian dinosaurs co-existing is not supported by any scientific evidence.

Other depictions of the Stone Age include the best-selling Earth's Children
Earth's Children
Earth's Children is a series of speculative alternative historical fiction novels written by Jean M. Auel set circa 30,000 years before present. There are six novels in the series...

series of books by Jean M. Auel
Jean M. Auel
Jean Marie Auel is an American writer. She is best known for her Earth's Children books, a series of novels set in prehistoric Europe that explores interactions of Cro-Magnon people with Neanderthals...

, which are set in the Paleolithic
Paleolithic
The Paleolithic Age, Era or Period, is a prehistoric period of human history distinguished by the development of the most primitive stone tools discovered , and covers roughly 99% of human technological prehistory...

 and are loosely based on archaeological and anthropological
Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

 findings. The 1981 film
Film
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

 Quest for Fire
Quest for Fire
Quest for Fire is a 1911 Belgian novel by "J.-H. Rosny", the pseudonym of two brothers; the author was likely the elder of the two, Joseph Henri Honoré Boex . It was first published in English in 1967....

by Jean-Jacques Annaud
Jean-Jacques Annaud
Jean-Jacques Annaud is a French film director, film producer and screenwriter.- Biography :Annaud was born in Juvisy-sur-Orge, Essonne...

 tells the story of a group of neanderthals searching for their lost fire. A twenty first century series, "Chronicles of Ancient Darkness" by Michelle Paver tells of two New Stone Age children fighting to fulfill a prophecy and save their Clans from the evil Soul Eaters.

A reference to the Stone Age was made by then Chief of Staff
Chief of Staff
The title, chief of staff, identifies the leader of a complex organization, institution, or body of persons and it also may identify a Principal Staff Officer , who is the coordinator of the supporting staff or a primary aide to an important individual, such as a president.In general, a chief of...

, US Air Force General Curtis E. Lemay, when in 1965, he made the statement concerning the North Vietnamese, during the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

; "They've got to draw in their horns and stop their aggression, or we're going to bomb them back into the stone age." The gist of that statement implies a fierce aerial bombardment intended to utterly destroy the nation's infrastructure
Infrastructure
Infrastructure is basic physical and organizational structures needed for the operation of a society or enterprise, or the services and facilities necessary for an economy to function...

, forcing its survivors to revert to primitive technology in order to survive. The same concerns over a nuclear attack impelled the construction of bomb shelters, underground headquarters and caches for food and water during the 1950s.

See also

  • Megalith
    Megalith
    A megalith is a large stone that has been used to construct a structure or monument, either alone or together with other stones. Megalithic describes structures made of such large stones, utilizing an interlocking system without the use of mortar or cement.The word 'megalith' comes from the Ancient...

  • Prehistoric warfare
    Prehistoric warfare
    Prehistoric warfare is war conducted in the era before writing, and before the establishments of large social entities like states. Historical warfare sets in with the standing armies of Bronze Age Sumer, but prehistoric warfare may be studied in some societies at much earlier dates.When humans...

  • Ice Age
    Ice age
    An ice age or, more precisely, glacial age, is a generic geological period of long-term reduction in the temperature of the Earth's surface and atmosphere, resulting in the presence or expansion of continental ice sheets, polar ice sheets and alpine glaciers...

  • Pleistocene
    Pleistocene
    The Pleistocene is the epoch from 2,588,000 to 11,700 years BP that spans the world's recent period of repeated glaciations. The name pleistocene is derived from the Greek and ....

  • Homo
    Homo
    Homo may refer to:*the Greek prefix ὅμο-, meaning "the same"*the Latin for man, human being*Homo, the taxonomical genus including modern humans...

  • Timeline of the Stone Age
    Timeline of the Stone Age
    The Stone Age comprises the period between the first use of stone tools by early hominids and their replacement with metal tools in roughly 3000 BC. That point also roughly coincides with the invention of writing and the end of prehistory...

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