What is the Stone Age Period?

Stone Age Definition and Tools

The Stone Age refers to a prehistoric period in human history characterised by the primary use of stone tools and implements. It stretches back thousands of years and it was in this stage that early humans relied on simple self-crafted tools made from stones to meet their basic need of hunting and gathering.

In this blog, we will delve into the Stone Age, exploring its definition, tools, periods, peoples, art, and fascinating facts that continue to intrigue historians and archaeologists worldwide.

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The Stone Age: Definition and Periods

The Stone Age is divided into three major periods:

  1. Paleolithic (Old Stone Age):
  2. During the Old Stone Age, or Palaeolithic era, hominids, such as Homo habilis and Homo erectus, produced stone tools with rough edges. This transpired roughly between 2.6 million to 10,000 years ago, known for nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyles and famous for the astonishing manifestation of cave art

  3. Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age):
  4. Transitioning from the Paleolithic, the Middle Stone Age or Mesolithic era existed roughly 10,000 to 8,000 years ago. This period marked a bridging intimacy between the hunter-gatherer lifestyle and early agrarian society. It was a period of environmental and social change, with artefacts like microliths used as composite parts of more complex tools.

  5. Neolithic (New Stone Age):
  6. The New Stone Age, popularly identified as the Neolithic era, commenced around 8,000 BCE. It marked advancement in human technology with the development of polished stone tools, pottery, the practice of agriculture, and the domestication of animals. This age is particularly renowned for the inception of organised societies, semi-permanent settlements, and the earliest forms of architecture.

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Stone Age Tools

Stone tools were crucial to the survival and evolution of early humans. During the Palaeolithic period, simple tools such as hand axes, scrapers, and choppers were crafted from chipped or flaked stones.

As the Mesolithic period began, tools became more refined, including microliths, small stone blades used for hunting and crafting.

The Neolithic period saw significant advancements, with the introduction of polished stone tools, like grinding stones for processing food and arrowheads for hunting.

People of the Stone Age

Compared to modern humans, Stone Age people may have been primitive—but they were far more sophisticated than just cavemen. Early humans were ingenious problem-solvers who managed to survive and thrive in hostile environments.

Throughout the Stone Age, diverse groups of early humans inhabited different regions around the world. These humans adapted to their environments and developed unique cultures.

In Europe, Homo neanderthalensis (Neanderthals) coexisted with Homo sapiens (modern humans) during the Palaeolithic period. The transition from the Paleolithic to the Neolithic era saw the rise of significant civilizations in various regions, including the ancient Egyptians, Sumerians, and Indus Valley civilizations.

One would like to think that early humans lived in caves. However, settlements found in Turkey confirmed the fact that nine thousand years ago, neolithic people lived in a pack close together in mud houses. They entered through holes in the roof and passed on their houses to their descendants.

People in the Stone Age were hunter-gatherers. This means that they either hunted the food they needed or gathered food from trees and other plants. Based on the evidence found, some archaeologists even believe that people of the stone age had started using clay pots to cook food and curing meat for their consumption.

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Stone Age Art

Stone Age societies, despite their rudimentary tools and lifestyle, developed a knack for art and artistic representation. Exquisite cave paintings found in regions like Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc in France, and Lascaux, bear testimony to their artistic abilities.

Personal ornaments, including necklaces and bracelets, demonstrate an innate human desire for beautification and symbolism. The study of Stone Age art truly holds an anthropological significance as it sheds light on early human cognition.

These artworks reflect the perceptions, religious beliefs, or daily activities of prehistoric humans, hence offering a glimpse into their cultures and ways of life.

Often, these arts are themed around animals, possibly due to the reliance on animals for food. This depiction might also be connected with the primitive practices of worshipping or appeasing animals’ spirits, significantly marking the inception of religion and spirituality.

In this context, the Venus figurines, small stone carvings symbolising a woman’s body, are considered significant artefacts with probable connections to “Fertility Cults” or “Mother Goddess worship.”

Facts about the Stone Age

  1. Communication and Music: With no written records available from the Stone Age, anthropologists believe that early humans communicated using complex languages, and rudimentary forms of symbolic writing. Early humans are also said to have spent their leisure time playing music on flutes made from bird bone and mammoth ivory.
  2. Strong women folk: Stone Age women were as strong as modern athletes. Based on the remains found around 7000 years ago, studies concluded that stone-age women were as strong as “rowers” and were most likely involved in manual labour as their male partners.
  3. Domestication of Plants and Animals: The transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture during the Neolithic era marked a turning point in human history. Early humans domesticated plants like wheat, barley, and rice, as well as animals like dogs, cattle, and sheep. It has come to be seen that people were buried with their pet dogs when they died.

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The Stone Age plays a crucial part in the study of human origins. Starting with rudimentary stone tools, to developing complex mechanisms and art forms, the stone age was an era that laid the foundation stones for civilizations to follow.

Understanding it does not simply mean uncovering our past, it means comprehending who we are today and how we evolved as a species. The ancient wisdom that our Stone Age ancestors carried is vital as it holds the mysteries of human invention and innovation.

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