Stone Age

The Stone Age marks a period of prehistory in which humans used primitive stone tools. Lasting roughly 2.5 million years, the Stone Age ended around 5,000 years ago when humans in the Near East began working with metal and making tools and weapons from bronze.

During the Stone Age, humans shared the planet with a number of now-extinct hominin relatives, including Neanderthals and Denisovans.

When Was the Stone Age?

The Stone Age began about 2.6 million years ago, when researchers found the earliest evidence of humans using stone tools, and lasted until about 3,300 B.C. when the Bronze Age began. It is typically broken into three distinct periods: the Paleolithic Period, Mesolithic Period and Neolithic Period.

Some experts believe the use of stone tools may have developed even earlier in our primate ancestors, since some modern apes, including bonobos, can also use stone tools to get food.

Stone artifacts tell anthropologists a lot about early humans, including how they made things, how they lived and how human behavior evolved over time.

Stone Age Facts

Early in the Stone Age, humans lived in small, nomadic groups. During much of this period, the Earth was in an Ice Age—a period of colder global temperatures and glacial expansion.

Mastodons, saber-toothed cats, giant ground sloths and other megafauna roamed. Stone Age humans hunted large mammals, including wooly mammoths, giant bison and deer. They used stone tools to cut, pound, and crush—making them better at extracting meat and other nutrients from animals and plants than their earlier ancestors.

Read more: How Stone Age Human Ancestors Were Like Us

About 14,000 years ago, Earth entered a warming period. Many of the large Ice Age animals went extinct. In the Fertile Crescent, a boomerang-shaped region bounded on the west by the Mediterranean Sea and on the east by the Persian Gulf, wild wheat and barley became plentiful as it got warmer.

Some humans started to build permanent houses in the region. They gave up the nomadic lifestyle of their Ice Age ancestors to begin farming.

Human artifacts in the Americas begin showing up from around this time, too. Experts aren’t exactly sure who these first Americans were or where they came from, though there’s some evidence these Stone Age people may have followed a footbridge between Asia and North America, which became submerged as glaciers melted at the end of the last Ice Age.

Stone Age Tools

Much of what we know about life in the Stone Age and Stone Age people comes from the tools they left behind.

Hammerstones are some of the earliest and simplest stone tools. Prehistoric humans used hammerstones to chip other stones into sharp-edged flakes. They also used hammerstones to break apart nuts, seeds and bones and to grind clay into pigment.

Archaeologists refer to these earliest stone tools as the Oldowan toolkit. Oldowan stone tools dating back nearly 2.6 million years were first discovered in Tanzania in the 1930s by archaeologist Louis Leakey.

Most of the makers of Oldowan tools were right-handed, leading experts to believe that handedness evolved very early in human history.

Read more: 6 Major Breakthroughs in Hunter-Gatherer Tools

As technology progressed, humans created increasingly more sophisticated stone tools. These included hand axes, spear points for hunting large game, scrapers which could be used to prepare animal hides and awls for shredding plant fibers and making clothing.

Not all Stone Age tools were made of stone. Groups of humans experimented with other raw materials including bone, ivory and antler, especially later on in the Stone Age.

Later Stone Age tools are more diverse. These diverse “toolkits” suggest a faster pace of innovation—and the emergence of distinct cultural identities. Different groups sought different ways of making tools.

Some examples of late Stone Age tools include harpoon points, bone and ivory needles, bone flutes for playing music and chisel-like stone flakes used for carving wood, antler or bone.

Stone Age Food

People during the Stone Age first started using clay pots to cook food and store things.

The oldest pottery known was found at an archaeological site in Japan. Fragments of clay containers used in food preparation at the site may be up to 16,500 years old.

Stone Age food varied over time and from region to region, but included the foods typical of hunter gatherers: meats, fish, eggs, grasses, tubers, fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts.

Stone Age Wars

While humans had the technology to create spears and other tools to use as weapons, there’s little evidence for Stone Age wars.

Most researchers think the population density in most areas was low enough to avoid violent conflict between groups. Stone Age wars may have started later when humans began settling and established economic currency in the form of agricultural goods.

Stone Age Art

The oldest known Stone Age art dates back to a later Stone Age period known as the Upper Paleolithic, about 40,000 years ago. Art began to appear around this time in parts of Europe, the Near East, Asia and Africa.

The earliest known depiction of a human in Stone Age art is a small ivory sculpture of a female figure with exaggerated breasts and genitalia. The figurine is named the Venus of Hohle Fels, after the cave in Germany in which it was discovered. It’s about 40,000 years old.

Humans started carving symbols and signs onto the walls of caves during the Stone Age using hammerstones and stone chisels.

These early murals, called petroglyphs, depict scenes of animals. Some may have been used as early maps, showing trails, rivers, landmarks, astronomical markers and symbols communicating time and distance traveled.

Shamans, too, may have created cave art while under the influence of natural hallucinogens.

The earliest petroglyphs were created around 40,000 years ago. Archaeologists have discovered petroglyphs on every continent besides Antarctica.


Stone tools; Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
The cave art debate; Smithsonian Magazine.
Stone Age; Ancient History Encyclopedia.

  • ∼320,000 to 305,000 years ago: Populations at Olorgesailie in Southern Kenya undergo technological improvements in tool making and engage in long distance trade. [1]
  • 315,000 years ago: approximate date of appearance of Homo sapiens (Jebel Irhoud, Morocco).
  • 270,000 years ago: age of Y-DNA haplogroup A00 ("Y-chromosomal Adam").
  • 250,000 years ago: first appearance of Homo neanderthalensis (Saccopastore skulls).
  • 250,000–200,000 years ago: modern human presence in West Asia (Misliya cave in Israel).
  • 230,000–150,000 years ago: age of mt-DNA haplogroup L ("Mitochondrial Eve").
  • 210,000 years ago: modern human presence in southeast Europe (Apidima, Greece). [2]
  • 200,000 years ago: oldest known grass bedding, including insect-repellent plants and ash layers beneath (possibly for a dirt-free, insulated base and to keep away arthropods). [3][4][5]
  • 195,000 years ago: Omo remains (Ethiopia). [6]
  • 170,000 years ago: humans are wearing clothing by this date. [7]
  • ∼164,000 years ago: humans expanded their diet to include marine resources [8]
  • 160,000 years ago: Homo sapiens idaltu.
  • 150,000 years ago: Peopling of Africa: Khoisanid separation, age of mtDNA haplogroup L0.
  • 125,000 years ago: peak of the Eemian interglacial period.

"Epipaleolithic" or "Mesolithic" are terms for a transitional period between the Last Glacial Maximum and the Neolithic Revolution in Old World (Eurasian) cultures.

  • 67,000–40,000 years ago: Neanderthal admixture to Eurasians.
  • 50,000 years ago: earliest sewing needle found. Made and used by Denisovans. [19]
  • 50,000–30,000 years ago: Mousterian Pluvial in North Africa. The Sahara desert region is wet and fertile. Later Stone Age begins in Africa.
  • 45,000–43,000 years ago: European early modern humans. [20]
  • 45,000–40,000 years ago: Châtelperronian cultures in France. [21]
  • 42,000 years ago: Laschamps event, a geomagnetic excursion with major implications for humans at the time. [22][23]
  • 42,000 years ago: Paleolithic flutes in Germany. [24]
  • 42,000 years ago: earliest evidence of advanced deep sea fishing technology at the Jerimalai cave site in East Timor—demonstrates high-level maritime skills and by implication the technology needed to make ocean crossings to reach Australia and other islands, as they were catching and consuming large numbers of big deep sea fish such as tuna. [25][26]
  • 41,000 years ago: Denisova hominin lives in the Altai Mountains.
  • 40,000 years ago: extinction of Homo neanderthalensis. [21]
  • 40,000–30,000 years ago: First human settlements formed by Aboriginal Australians in several areas which are today the cities of Sydney, [29][30]Perth[31] and Melbourne. [32]
  • 40,000–20,000 years ago: oldest known ritual cremation, the Mungo Lady, in Lake Mungo, Australia.
  • 35,000 years ago: oldest known figurative art of a human figure as opposed to a zoomorphic figure (Venus of Hohle Fels).
  • 33,000 years ago: earliest evidence of humanoids in Ireland [33]
  • 31,000–16,000 years ago: Last Glacial Maximum (peak at 26,500 years ago).
  • 30,000 years ago: rock paintings tradition begins in Bhimbetka rock shelters in India, which presently as a collection is the densest known concentration of rock art. In an area about 10 km 2 , there are about 800 rock shelters of which 500 contain paintings. [34]
  • 29,000 years ago: The earliest ovens found.
  • 28,500 years ago: New Guinea is populated by colonists from Asia or Australia. [35]
  • 28,000 years ago: oldest known twisted rope.
  • 28,000–24,000 years ago: oldest known pottery—used to make figurines rather than cooking or storage vessels (Venus of Dolní Věstonice).
  • 28,000–20,000 years ago: Gravettian period in Europe. Harpoons and saws invented.
  • 26,000 years ago: people around the world use fibers to make baby carriers, clothes, bags, baskets, and nets.
  • 25,000 years ago: a hamlet consisting of huts built of rocks and of mammoth bones is founded in what is now Dolní Věstonice in Moravia in the Czech Republic. This is the oldest human permanent settlement that has yet been found by archaeologists. [36]
  • 24,000 years ago: Evidence suggests humans living in Alaska and Yukon North America. [37]
  • 21,000 years ago: artifacts suggest early human activity occurred in Canberra, the capital city of Australia. [38]
  • 20,000 years ago: Kebaran culture in the Levant: beginning of the Epipalaeolithic in the Levant
  • 20,000 years ago: oldest pottery storage or cooking vessels from China.
  • 20,000 years ago: theorized earliest date of development of traditional Inuit skin clothing[39]
  • 20,000–10,000 years ago: Khoisanid expansion to Central Africa. [14]
  • 20,000–19,000 years ago: earliest pottery use, in Xianren Cave, China.
  • 18,000–12,000 years ago: Though estimations vary widely, it is believed by scholars that Afro-Asiatic was spoken as a single language around this time period. [40]
  • 16,000–14,000 years ago: Minatogawa Man (Proto-Mongoloid phenotype) in Okinawa, Japan
  • 16,000–13,000 years ago: first human migration into North America.
  • 16,000–11,000 years ago: Caucasian Hunter-Gatherer expansion to Europe.
  • 16,000 years ago: Wisent (European bison) sculpted in clay deep inside the cave now known as Le Tuc d'Audoubert in the French Pyrenees near what is now the border of Spain. [41]
  • 15,000–14,700 years ago (13,000 BC to 12,700 BC): Earliest supposed date for the domestication of the pig.
  • 14,800 years ago: The Humid Period begins in North Africa. The region that would later become the Sahara is wet and fertile, and the aquifers are full. [42]
  • 14,500–11,500: Red Deer Cave people in China, possible late survival of archaic or archaic-modern hybrid humans.
  • 14,200 years ago: The oldest agreed domestic dog remains belongs to the Bonn-Oberkassel dog that was buried with two humans.
  • 14,000–12,000 years ago: Oldest evidence for prehistoric warfare (Jebel Sahaba, Natufian culture).
  • 13,000–10,000 years ago: Late Glacial Maximum, end of the Last Glacial Period, climate warms, glaciers recede.
  • 13,000 years ago: A major water outbreak occurs on Lake Agassiz, which at the time could have been the size of the current Black Sea and the largest lake on Earth. Much of the lake is drained in the Arctic Ocean through the Mackenzie River.
  • 13,000–11,000 years ago: Earliest dates suggested for the domestication of the sheep.
  • 12,900–11,700 years ago: The Younger Dryas, a period of sudden cooling and return to glacial conditions.
  • c.12,000 years ago: Volcanic eruptions in the Virunga Mountains blocked Lake Kivu outflow into Lake Edward and the Nile system, diverting the water to Lake Tanganyika. Nile's total length is shortened and Lake Tanganyika's surface is increased.
  • 12,000 years ago: Earliest dates suggested for the domestication of the goat.

The terms "Neolithic" and "Bronze Age" are culture-specific and are mostly limited to cultures of the Old World. Many populations of the New World remain in the Mesolithic cultural stage until European contact in the modern period.

10 fascinating Stone Age facts:

  • During the Neolithic period of the Stone Age, the mysterious monument of Stonehenge was built. No one is quite sure why or how it was built, and it remains one of the greatest mysteries in human history.
  • At the beginning of the Stone Age, Europe was still attached to Africa. This means that early humans could walk from Africa to Britain!
  • People during the Stone Age made jewellery from shells, teeth, stones and animal claws.
  • Dogs first became domesticated during the Mesolithic period of the Stone Age. People used their dogs to help them hunt for food.
  • There were several Ice Ages during the Stone Age. During the Ice Ages, glaciers covered large portions of the Earth. The last Ice Age ended at the end of the Palaeolithic period.
  • Animals that roamed the Earth during the Stone Age include woolly mammoths, saber-toothed tigers, mastodons and woolly rhinos.
  • Some of the best preserved Stone Age houses are found at Skara Brae in Scotland. The Stone Age village was discovered after a storm in 1850. Researchers found a very well preserved Neolithic village from 5000 years ago. Many rooms had fitted furniture, like dressers and beds. Dice, tools, pottery and jewellery and other objects were also found.
  • Many people believe that the Stone Age diet was much healthier than the diet we have today because it contained no processed or sugary foods. The ‘Paleo’ diet has now become popular and is based on the diet our Palaeolithic ancestors would have eaten!
  • Before the Stone Age, people would have used bones, wood and vegetable fibres for tools. Learning how to use stones as tools was a big advancement for humans.
  • It is thought that there were six other types of humans when Homo sapiens (modern humans) first lived on Earth. However, around 24,000 years ago, Homo sapiens (which means 'wise men') were the only humans left on Earth.

Teachers! You might like to use this list of Stone Age facts with your class during their Stone Age lessons, but if you're looking for more in-depth learning, you can check out our complete The Prehistoric World cross-curricular topic. This topic has 18 ready-to-teach lessons across a range of subjects to cover your Stone Age to Iron Age learning.

Becky Cranham

I set up PlanBee in 2009 to help redress the teacher workload balance. I love finding new ways to make teachers' lives easier and writing about educational ideas and issues for both teachers and parents.

1. Stonehenge

Stonehenge in Wiltshire is a world renowned, magnificent site consisting of standing and lying stones, some transported from South Wales. The construction of Stonehenge took place between 3000 BC and 1600 BC and is considered to be one of the most impressive structures of its time. The purpose of Stonehenge has remained a mystery, despite extensive archaeological investigation.

Stonehenge is managed by English Heritage. During normal operating hours, visitors walk around the circle on a set path and are given free audio guides explaining different aspects of Stonehenge. A brand new visitor centre has also opened at Stonehenge, designed to transform the visitor experience with a new world-class museum housing permanent and temporary exhibitions, plus a spacious café.

2. Silbury Hill

Only 1500 meters south of the main Avebury Rings stands Silbury Hill, the largest, and perhaps the most enigmatic, of all megalithic constructions in Europe. Crisscrossing the surrounding countryside are numerous meandering lines of standing stones and mysterious underground chambers, many positioned according to astronomical alignments.

Believed to date back to between 2400 and 2000BC, Silbury Hill rises 30 metres and has a circular base which measures 160-metres wide. The origins of Silbury Hill remain a mystery to this day, but most archeologists believe it was a ceremonial or religious site.

3. Callanish Stones

The Callanish Stones are a collection of Neolothic standing stones on the west coast of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Probably built between 2900 and 2600 BC, the 13 primary stones form a circle 13m in diameter with a solitary monolith standing 5m high at its heart. Within the circle is a chambered tomb. Located on a low ridge with the waters of Loch Roag and the hills of Great Bernera in the background, the Callanish Stones are a scenic and imposing place to visit. There is a Visitor Centre, shop and tearoom on site.

4. Castlerigg Stone Circle

The Castlerigg Stone Circle is a Neolithic Stone Age monument which ranks among the earliest of stone circles found in Britain. It is believed Castlerigg Stone Circle was constructed around 3000BC. In total Castlerigg contains 38 stones within the outer circle, which has a diameter of approximately 30m.

Today the site is run by English Heritage and is open to visitors, its scenic hilltop setting providing pretty views of the surrounding area.

5. Gobekli Tepe

Six thousand years older than Stonehenge, seven thousand years older than the Great Pyramids and a thousand older than the walls of Jericho, formerly believed to be the world’s most ancient monumental structure, Göbekli Tepe in south-eastern Turkey close to the city of Sanliurfa has literally rewritten human history. Academics are calling Göbekli Tepe the ‘world’s first temple’ and it’s an example that huge complexes were well within the capabilities of early hunter-gatherers, an assumption never previously considered.

There are at least 20 installations each enclosed by a wall as well as T-shaped pillars between three and six metres high weighing 40-60 tons, some with human-like appendages and some with carvings of animals such as foxes, snakes, boars and ducks. Similarly to Stonehenge, questions remain as to how the huge monoliths got to their locations, how intricate carvings were made when even rudimentary hand tools were rare, how they were stood up on end when complex engineering of that type was centuries away, as was farming, the ability to create blueprint for construction and even permanent settlements.

6. Rheinisches Landesmuseum

The Rheinisches Landesmuseum of Trier is a large archaeological museum which exhibits pieces from throughout the history of the city and its region. Starting with the Stone Age and up to the medieval era, the museum offers an overview of the development of Trier and its surrounding areas such as the Eifel region.

From Stone Age tools to Roman reliefs and medieval ecclesiastical pieces, the Rheinisches Landesmuseum has a wide ranging permanent exhibitions as well as temporary exhibits. Audio guides are available in several languages.

7. Skara Brae

Skara Brae is an incredibly well-preserved Neolithic village in the Orkney Isles off the coast of mainland Scotland. Characterised by sturdy stone slab structures insulated and protected by the clay and household waste which holds them together, Skara Brae is a stunning example of the high quality of Neolithic workmanship.

Visitors to Skara Brae can tour these original magnificent homes as well as a reconstructed version which really conveys the realities of Neolithic life. The nearby visitor centre holds many of the artefacts found at Skara Brae and offers an insight into the site’s history through touch screen presentations.

8. Avebury Ring

Avebury Ring in Wiltshire, England, is a stone monument which encircles the town of Avebury and is believed to have been constructed between 2850 and 2200 BC. Now comprised of a bank and a ditch containing 180 stones making up an inner and outer circle, the ring is not only fourteen times larger than Stonehenge, but was almost certainly completed before its famous counterpart.

Visitors to Avebury Ring are free to walk up to the site itself at all times and view the monument’s stones. Together with Stonehenge, Silbury Hill and several other prehistoric sites, Avebury Ring is a UNESCO World Heritage site managed by the National Trust.

9. The Sanctuary (Avebury)

The Sanctuary near Avebury in England is a monument believed to date back to around 3000 BC.

The concrete markers which can be seen today at the Sanctuary site were once made up of first timber slabs and then stones. These were destroyed in approximately 1725 AD, their original locations now marked by the concrete posts.

As with Stonehenge, the function of the Sanctuary remains a mystery, although archaeologists believe it was a ceremonial site, probably used for burial rituals. This theory stems from the fact that large quantities of human bones and food remains have been found at the site.

The Sanctuary forms part of the Avebury UNESCO World Heritage site.

10. Swedish History Museum

The Swedish History Museum in Stockholm offers a comprehensive series of exhibitions for the period spanning from the Stone Age to the Medieval period. From prehistoric artifacts to Viking displays and beyond, the museum offers an insight into ten thousand years of history.

The museum offers audio guides in English, Swedish, French, German and Spanish, although these are on a first come first serve basis.

Main Article

Upper Paleolithic Painting

Rock paintings (paintings on natural rock surfaces) have been discovered throughout the world common motifs include abstract patterns, stick figures, and handprints. (Handprints were created either by pressing a paint-coated hand against the rock, or by blowing paint over the hand.) Detailed human and animal figures are relatively uncommon. D18-D20

Stone age painting is generally quite flat (i.e. lacking in three-dimensional shading), and figures are usually depicted from one of three views: frontal, profile, or composite. In frontal view, the figure faces the observer in profile view , the figure is drawn side-on and in composite view (aka "composite perspective" or "twisted perspective"), different views are mixed in the same figure (e.g. a human with a frontally-viewed torso, but head and limbs in profile). These simple views allow for immediately recognizable shapes the outline of the human leg, for instance, is much more easily recognized from the side than from the front.

In summation: stone age painting is typically flat (rather than three-dimensional) and renders figures in three simple views (frontal, profile, or both). These qualities, far from being limited to the stone age, characterize most of the world's traditional art. Throughout history, most cultures have placed little emphasis on physical realism as a means of aesthetic expression only in Europe (starting with Classical Greece) did a sustained preoccupation with physical realism develop.

The two fundamental ingredients of paint are pigment (a coloured powder) and binder (a liquid). For stone age painters, pigment took the form of mineral powders (e.g. iron oxide for red paint) and charcoal, while oils from plants or animals served as binder. 2 Paint was typically applied by rubbing (with fingers or animal-hair brushes) or blowing (through hollow stems or bones). E4

The most famous collections of stone age painting are those of Altamira (Spain) and D16,H28

Stone Age - HISTORY

Stone Age art illustrates early human creativity through small portable objects, cave paintings, and early sculpture and architecture.

Learning Objectives

Create a timeline of the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic Periods of the Stone Age, giving a brief description of the art from each period

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The Stone Age lasted from 30,000 BCE to about 3,000 BCE and is named after the main technological tool developed at that time: stone. It ended with the advent of the Bronze Age and Iron Age .
  • The Stone Age is divided in three distinct periods: the Paleolithic Period or Old Stone Age (30,000 BCE–10,000 BCE), the Mesolithic Period or Middle Stone Age (10,000 BCE–8,000 BCE), and the Neolithic Period or New Stone Age (8,000 BCE–3,000 BCE).
  • The art of the Stone Age represents the first accomplishments in human creativity, preceding the invention of writing.

Key Terms

  • Parietal Art:Paintings, murals, drawings, etchings, carvings, and pecked artwork on the interior of rock shelters and caves also known as cave art.
  • prehistory:The span of time before recorded history all the time preceding human existence and the invention of writing.
  • Nomad:A member of a community of people who move from one place to another, rather than settling permanently in one location.

The Stone Age

The Stone Age is the first of the three-age system of archaeology, which divides human technological prehistory into three periods: the Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age. The Stone Age lasted roughly 3.4 million years, from 30,000 BCE to about 3,000 BCE, and ended with the advent of metalworking.

The Stone Age has been divided into three distinct periods:

  • Paleolithic Period or Old Stone Age (30,000 BCE–10,000 BCE)
  • Mesolithic Period or Middle Stone Age (10,000 BCE–8,000 BCE)
  • Neolithic Period or New Stone Age (8,000 BCE–3,000 BCE)

The art of the Stone Age represents the first accomplishments in human creativity, preceding the invention of writing. While numerous artifacts still exist today, the lack of writing systems from this era greatly limits our understanding of prehistoric art and culture .

The Art of the Stone Age: Paleolithic

The Paleolithic era is characterized by the emergence of basic stone tools and stone art in the archaeological record. For the first time, humans began to create durable products of self expression that served no function for survival. The diagnostic art of this period appears in two main forms: small sculptures and large paintings and engravings on cave walls. There are also various examples of carved bone and ivory flutes in the Paleolithic era, indicating another art form utilized by prehistoric humans.

Paleolithic small sculptures are made of clay, bone, ivory, or stone and consist of simple figurines depicting animals and humans. In particular, Venus figurines are the most indicative of this era. They are highly stylized depictions of women with exaggerated female parts representing fertility and sexuality. They typically date to the Gravettian period (26,000–21,000 years ago), but the earliest known Venus figurine (Venus of Hohle Fels) dates to at least 35,000 years ago, and the most recent (Venus of Monruz) dates to roughly 11,000 years ago. They are most common in the Mediterranean region, but there are examples from as far as Siberia. Archaeologists can only speculate on their meaning, but their ubiquitous nature indicates a universal human attraction to art and possibly religion.

Venus of Hohle Fels: Oldest known Venus figurine. Also the oldest known, undisputed depiction of a human being in prehistoric art. Made of mammoth tusk and found in Germany.

Venus of Laussel, an Upper Paleolithic (Aurignacian) carving:

The second main form of Paleolithic art consists of monumental cave paintings and engravings. This type of rock art is typically found in European cave shelters, dating to 40,000–14,000 years ago, when the earth was largely covered in glacial ice. The images are predominately depictions of animals, human hand prints, and geometric patterns. The most common animals in cave art are the more intimidating ones, like cave lions, woolly rhinoceroses, and mammoths . These paintings could be creative recordings of nature, factual recordings of events, or part of some spiritual ritual , but scholars generally agree there is a symbolic and/or religious function to cave art.

The Art of the Stone Age: Mesolithic

From the Paleolithic through the Mesolithic, cave paintings and portable art such as figurines, statuettes, and beads predominated, with decorative figured workings also seen on some utilitarian objects. Venus figurines—an umbrella term for a number of prehistoric female statuettes portrayed with similar physical attributes—were very popular at the time. These figurines were carved from soft stone (such as steatite , calcite, or limestone), bone or ivory, or formed of clay and fired. The latter are among the oldest ceramics known. Also in this period, personal accessories and adornments were made from shell and bone. All the examples mentioned above fall under the category of portable art: small for easy transport.

Archaeological discoveries across a broad swath of Europe (especially southern France, like those at Lascaux northern Spain and Swabia, in Germany) include over two hundred caves with spectacular paintings, drawings, and sculptures that are among the earliest undisputed examples of representational image-making. Paintings and engravings along the caves’ walls and ceilings fall under the category of parietal art .

Prehistoric cave paintings in Lascaux, France:

The Art of the Stone Age: Neolithic

The Neolithic saw the transformation of nomad human settlements into agrarian societies in need of permanent shelter. From this period there is evidence of early pottery, as well as sculpture, architecture, and the construction of megaliths . Early rock art also first appeared in the Neolithic period.

Female figure from Tumba Madžari, Republic of Macedonia:

The End of the Stone Age

The advent of metalworking in the Bronze Age brought additional media available for use in making art, an increase in stylistic diversity, and the creation of objects that did not have any obvious function other than art. It also saw the development in some areas of artisans, a class of people specializing in the production of art, as well as in early writing systems.

By the Iron Age, civilizations with writing had arisen from Ancient Egypt to Ancient China.

2 million years ago

Our human ancestors evolved in Africa. Fossil evidence of the earliest modern humans (Homo sapiens) dates from about 300,000 years ago.

From about 80,000 years ago modern humans gradually spread across the world.

1,000,000 years ago
The Old Stone Age
or the Palaeolithic

Early humans arrived in Britain human species such as Homo neanderthalensis (Neanderthals) and Homo heidelbergensis travelled the country hunting wild animals and gathering plants to eat.

There were periods of severe cold, ice ages when Britain was covered with a thick layer of ice and nothing could live here. But there were also warmer periods between the ice ages (interglacials).

44,000 years ago Our own ancestors, Homo sapiens reached Britain. They were hunter-gatherers who made stone tools. Sea levels were lower and Britain was connected to the rest of Europe by a land bridge across the North Sea and English Channel.

26,000 years ago The last ice age was at its peak. Huge thick sheets of ice covered Britain north of Nottingham. Britain was cold and bleak and uninhabitable.

Evolution In A Nutshell

Putting recent human evolutionary history in a nutshell: the period before Homo sapiens is known as the Lower Stone age, and that gave way to the Middle Stone Age, where we began developing simple stone, wood and rope tools. In the Late Stone Age, the skill sets that were developed using these tools became craft disciplines, and the rapid advancements in technologies started at that time haven’t stopped since, leading to our current state, as tool wielding monkeys with big aspirations. Note: I said that last bit, not the researchers at the Max Planck Institute .

The archaeologists wrote that for most of humanity's prehistory groups of humans were relatively isolated from each other. This conclusion was derived from the fact that most Middle Stone Age finds in Africa date to between 300 thousand and 30 thousand years ago and after this time they largely vanish. However, the new finds show primitive tool production continued in some isolated areas much later in the Late Stone Age, “when the Neolithic became the Bronze age around 3,500 BC,” said the researchers.

The lead author of the new study, Dr Eleanor Scerri, said that up to now almost everything that is known about ancient human origins has been extrapolated from discoveries in small parts of eastern and southern Africa. Now, this new work highlights the importance of investigating the entirety of the African continent so to construct a clearer and more reality-based picture of human evolution.

Lithics from Laminia (A-D) and Saxomununya (E-H). (A) unretouched flake (B) bifacially retouched flake (C) Levallois core evidencing a step fracture (D) side retouched flake/scraper (E, F) Levallois cores (G) bifacial foliate point (H) bifacial foliate. (Jacopo Cerasoni / Nature CC-BY-4.0)


Archaeologists classify stone tools into industries (also known as complexes or technocomplexes [2] ) that share distinctive technological or morphological characteristics. [3]

In 1969 in the 2nd edition of World Prehistory, Grahame Clark proposed an evolutionary progression of flint-knapping in which the "dominant lithic technologies" occurred in a fixed sequence from Mode 1 through Mode 5. [4] He assigned to them relative dates: Modes 1 and 2 to the Lower Palaeolithic, 3 to the Middle Palaeolithic, 4 to the Advanced and 5 to the Mesolithic. They were not to be conceived, however, as either universal—that is, they did not account for all lithic technology or as synchronous—they were not in effect in different regions simultaneously. Mode 1, for example, was in use in Europe long after it had been replaced by Mode 2 in Africa.

Clark's scheme was adopted enthusiastically by the archaeological community. One of its advantages was the simplicity of terminology for example, the Mode 1 / Mode 2 Transition. The transitions are currently of greatest interest. Consequently, in the literature the stone tools used in the period of the Palaeolithic are divided into four "modes", each of which designate a different form of complexity, and which in most cases followed a rough chronological order.

Pre-Mode I Edit

Stone tools found from 2011 to 2014 at Lake Turkana in Kenya, are dated to be 3.3 million years old, and predate the genus Homo by about one million years. [5] [6] The oldest known Homo fossil is about 2.4-2.3 million years old compared to the 3.3 million year old stone tools. [7] The stone tools may have been made by Australopithecus afarensis, the species whose best fossil example is Lucy, which inhabited East Africa at the same time as the date of the oldest stone tools, or by Kenyanthropus platyops (a 3.2 to 3.5-million-year-old Pliocene hominin fossil discovered in 1999). [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] Dating of the tools was by dating volcanic ash layers in which the tools were found and dating the magnetic signature (pointing north or south due to reversal of the magnetic poles) of the rock at the site. [13]

Grooved, cut and fractured animal bone fossils, made by using stone tools, were found in Dikika, Ethiopia near (200 yards) the remains of Selam, a young Australopithecus afarensis girl who lived about 3.3 million years ago. [14]

Mode I: The Oldowan Industry Edit

The earliest stone tools in the life span of the genus Homo are Mode 1 tools, [15] and come from what has been termed the Oldowan Industry, named after the type of site (many sites, actually) found in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, where they were discovered in large quantities. Oldowan tools were characterised by their simple construction, predominantly using core forms. These cores were river pebbles, or rocks similar to them, that had been struck by a spherical hammerstone to cause conchoidal fractures removing flakes from one surface, creating an edge and often a sharp tip. The blunt end is the proximal surface the sharp, the distal. Oldowan is a percussion technology. Grasping the proximal surface, the hominid brought the distal surface down hard on an object he wished to detach or shatter, such as a bone or tuber. [ citation needed ]

The earliest known Oldowan tools yet found date from 2.6 million years ago, during the Lower Palaeolithic period, and have been uncovered at Gona in Ethiopia. [16] After this date, the Oldowan Industry subsequently spread throughout much of Africa, although archaeologists are currently unsure which Hominan species first developed them, with some speculating that it was Australopithecus garhi, and others believing that it was in fact Homo habilis. [17] Homo habilis was the hominin who used the tools for most of the Oldowan in Africa, but at about 1.9-1.8 million years ago Homo erectus inherited them. The Industry flourished in southern and eastern Africa between 2.6 and 1.7 million years ago, but was also spread out of Africa and into Eurasia by travelling bands of H. erectus, who took it as far east as Java by 1.8 million years ago and Northern China by 1.6 million years ago. [ citation needed ]

Mode II: The Acheulean Industry Edit

Eventually, more complex Mode 2 tools began to be developed through the Acheulean Industry, named after the site of Saint-Acheul in France. The Acheulean was characterised not by the core, but by the biface, the most notable form of which was the hand axe. [18] The Acheulean first appears in the archaeological record as early as 1.7 million years ago in the West Turkana area of Kenya and contemporaneously in southern Africa.

The Leakeys, excavators at Olduvai, defined a "Developed Oldowan" Period in which they believed they saw evidence of an overlap in Oldowan and Acheulean. In their species-specific view of the two industries, Oldowan equated to H. habilis and Acheulean to H. erectus. Developed Oldowan was assigned to habilis and Acheulean to erectus. Subsequent dates on H. erectus pushed the fossils back to well before Acheulean tools that is, H. erectus must have initially used Mode 1. There was no reason to think, therefore, that Developed Oldowan had to be habilis it could have been erectus. Opponents of the view divide Developed Oldowan between Oldowan and Acheulean. There is no question, however, that habilis and erectus coexisted, as habilis fossils are found as late as 1.4 million years ago. Meanwhile, African H. erectus developed Mode 2. In any case a wave of Mode 2 then spread across Eurasia, resulting in use of both there. H. erectus may not have been the only hominin to leave Africa European fossils are sometimes associated with Homo ergaster, a contemporary of H. erectus in Africa.

In contrast to an Oldowan tool, which is the result of a fortuitous and probably ex tempore operation to obtain one sharp edge on a stone, an Acheulean tool is a planned result of a manufacturing process. The manufacturer begins with a blank, either a larger stone or a slab knocked off a larger rock. From this blank he or she removes large flakes, to be used as cores. Standing a core on edge on an anvil stone, he or she hits the exposed edge with centripetal blows of a hard hammer to roughly shape the implement. Then the piece must be worked over again, or retouched, with a soft hammer of wood or bone to produce a tool finely chipped all over consisting of two convex surfaces intersecting in a sharp edge. Such a tool is used for slicing concussion would destroy the edge and cut the hand.

Some Mode 2 tools are disk-shaped, others ovoid, others leaf-shaped and pointed, and others elongated and pointed at the distal end, with a blunt surface at the proximal end, obviously used for drilling. Mode 2 tools are used for butchering not being composite (having no haft) they are not very appropriate killing instruments. The killing must have been done some other way. Mode 2 tools are larger than Oldowan. The blank was ported to serve as an ongoing source of flakes until it was finally retouched as a finished tool itself. Edges were often sharpened by further retouching.

Mode III: The Mousterian Industry Edit

Eventually, the Acheulean in Europe was replaced by a lithic technology known as the Mousterian Industry, which was named after the site of Le Moustier in France, where examples were first uncovered in the 1860s. Evolving from the Acheulean, it adopted the Levallois technique to produce smaller and sharper knife-like tools as well as scrapers. Also known as the "prepared core technique," flakes are struck from worked cores and then subsequently retouched. [19] The Mousterian Industry was developed and used primarily by the Neanderthals, a native European and Middle Eastern hominin species, but a broadly similar industry is contemporaneously widespread in Africa. [20]

Mode IV: The Aurignacian Industry Edit

The widespread use of long blades (rather than flakes) of the Upper Palaeolithic Mode 4 industries appeared during the Upper Palaeolithic between 50,000 and 10,000 years ago, although blades were produced in small quantities much earlier by Neanderthals. [21] The Aurignacian culture seems to have been the first to rely largely on blades. [22] The use of blades exponentially increases the efficiency of core usage compared to the Levallois flake technique, which had a similar advantage over Acheulean technology which was worked from cores.

&lsquo. if children are to ever fully appreciate history the development of historical time has to be central to our teaching methodologies' This lesson aims to provide an overview of this period, developing pupils' sense of chronology and their understanding of cause and consequence. The context for these ideas comes from.

Introduction Stone Age to Iron Age covers around 10,000 years, between the last Ice Age and the coming of the Romans. Such a long period is difficult for children to imagine, but putting the children into a living time-line across the classroom might help. In one sense not a lot.

Watch the video: Horrible Histories - Terrible Ways to Live in the Savage Stone Age. Compilation (November 2021).