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Finding Time For The Old Stone Age: A History O...

It is succeeded by the Mesolithic ('Middle Stone Age'), in which people adapted to the changing environment after the end of the most recent Ice Age, and the Neolithic ('New Stone Age') which saw the spread of agriculture and ended with the coming of shiny bronze tools. As a measure against current-day self-importance, it might be interesting to mention that the Stone Age as a whole makes up around 99% of humanity's technological calling card - so stone tools were very much in vogue for a long time indeed.

Finding Time for the Old Stone Age: A History o...


Throughout the Paleolithic Period, early humans made significant advancements in the tools they used. Paleolithic archaeologists note that our ancestors started using stone tools for hunting, food preparation and production, and wood chopping. However, because survival during this time period revolved around hunting and gathering, communities often changed locations rapidly, and most of the shelters these early people created were only for temporary, short-term housing.

And lastly, we find that a large number of independent studies for very different societies, locations, and times come to surprisingly similar assessments: all point to very high mortality rates for children. For societies that lived thousands of kilometers away from each other and were separated by thousands of years of history, mortality in childhood was terribly high in all of them. The researchers find that on average a quarter of infants died before their first birthday and half of all children died before they reached puberty.

So if Stone Age people had fire, then how did they use it? Obviously, they cooked their food, but the use of fire went far beyond that. For one, fire was an important part of other technological development in the Stone Age. Stone tools existed before the advent of controlled fire, but Stone Age humans combined the two technologies. They discovered that heating rocks around a fire brought out impurities, making the rocks easier to chip into stone tools. Fire also let people turn clay into hardened ceramic pots and vases, useful for carrying and storing food, water, or other items. In fact, 24,000-year-old fire pits that seem to have been used to cook clay may be the oldest examples of kilns in human history.

The growth of a prehistoric timescale was one of the most dramatic developments in nineteenth-century ideas of humanity, massively extending the assumed course of human development and placing it within the deep chronologies of geological time. A dominant motif linking prehistory with wider studies of humanity and notions of historical change was the 'comparative method'-the idea that modern 'savages' were analogous to prehistoric Europeans, and that the two sets of peoples could explain one another. The importance of this mode of reasoning has been well-studied, and shown to have had great significance for concepts of progress and social evolution. What has been less investigated are cases when the comparative method broke down, and where 'modern savages' and 'prehistoric man' seemed to be dissimilar and analogies hard to make. This paper examines how a series of authors engaged with problems in the comparative method when they attempted to place human development within this deep prehistoric past. In doing so, it highlights the changing interactions between the Victorian deep time sciences and the 'sciences of man,' and how notions of European prehistory and modern 'primitives' often rested on a notion of variability in the 'savage' condition.

The Stone Age was a time in prehistory when humans made and used stone tools. (Prehistory is the time before people invented writing.) Early humans began using stones as simple tools about 2 million years ago. Humans used mainly stone tools until about 10,000 years ago. However, the Stone Age began and ended at different times in various parts of the world.

The Southern African Stone Age covers the longest period in human history, that is, the last three million years of human evolution and adaptation in a region south of the 18th parallel south. The region includes the countries of Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe, with a northern border marked by the Kunene River between Angola and Namibia, the Cuando River on the borders of Angola, Namibia, and Botswana, and the Zambezi River. It is divided into three main phases, known as Early, Middle, and Later Stone Age. The Early Stone Age had its beginning about three million years ago with the development of Australopithecus, found in South Africa in the region called the Cradle of Humankind. The earliest stone tools in the region were discovered in the cave of Sterkfontein and are dated to around two million years ago. These first stone tools, which include choppers, polyhedrons, and subspheroids, among other artifacts, are part of an industrial complex known as the Oldowan, which lasted for a few hundred thousand of years. It was followed by the Acheulean, known by its unique large cutting tools, the handaxes, cleavers, and picks, starting about 1.8 million years ago. During this period, species such as Homo habilis and Homo erectus/ergaster walked over southern Africa. The Middle Stone Age, starting about three hundred thousand years ago, seems to be directly associated with the emergence of a new species, Homo sapiens. This phase shows a wide cultural diversity in the region, and in fact across the whole African continent, both in time and space. This is a phase drastically marked by technological and cultural innovations, such as the use of bow and arrow, hafting, bone tools, lithic heat treatment, use of pigments, production of body ornaments such as beads, art in the form of engravings, and, finally, the systematic inclusion of shellfish and plants in the human diet. These innovations, however, were not used all in the same location. This congregation of techniques and innovations took place only during the next phase, the Later Stone Age, which started around thirty-five thousand years ago. It is likely the result of an important demographic change that occurred as a response to climatic oscillations that took place at the world level. Like the Middle Stone Age, the Later Stone Age saw an incredible range of cultural diversity in the large region of southern Africa. Traditionally, it was believed that the main differences between the Middle and Later Stone Ages were based on a dichotomy where, on one side, points and flake industries resulting from prepared cores such as Levallois were present, and on the other, simple cores producing microlithic assemblages, sometimes geometric, together with art, and beads and organic tools were present. Today, however, that simplistic contrast is known to be wrong, and the differences in cultural complexity are more a matter of concentration than innovation. The Later Stone Age hunter-gatherers were finally slowly replaced by farmers and herders and later by Iron Age populations, between twenty-five hundred years ago and the recent historical present.

Although the stone tools didn't change much, the Middle Paleolithic saw the use of fire became widespread. People at this early time lived in temporary shelters of branches, or in caves and rock shelters where they could find them.

What would you say is the best man-made invention throughout the ages? Some might say the electric light or the telephone or perhaps the automobile. But of course, we would argue that the best thing made by man is the cutting edge. The first knife-like tools were made in prehistoric times. These hand tools, or Oldowan, are the oldest known and said to have first appeared 2-3 million years ago. They were made by chipping stones to create a chopping or cutting edge and were typically made from a single "core" stone. These knives were made and used as needed and for hunting purposes and basic survival.

The most important time in the history of knife making is probably the Iron Age (between 1200 B.C. and 600 B.C). This is when man realised the potential of mining and processing materials. Specifically, the process of mining rock, then separating the ore by crushing it, and smelting the iron out of the rock by heating it. This is where iron was invented, a substance which had a great advantage over all previous man made tools. Man finally found a material that was both durable as well as sharp and it held its edge well!

Below is a selected chronological list of important dates showing the development of prehistoric art and culture from the Pliocene epoch, through the Lower, Middle and Upper Paleolithic eras of the Pleistocene epoch of the Stone Age, and reaching down to the Mesolithic (or Epipalaeolithic), Neolithic, Bronze and Iron ages of the Holocene epoch. Not content with simply making tools, Homo sapiens and later modern man created a huge range of Stone Age art, beginning with primitive Acheulean culture petroglyphs - such as cupules and rock carvings - and ending in stunning works of prehistoric sculpture (like the venus figurines), and the beautiful Magdalenian era cave paintings of Altamira. Stone Age artists used every sort of material they could find, ranging from rock-hard quartzite to softer stones like steatite, serpentine, sandstone and limestone, as well as mammoth ivory, reindeer antler, and animal bones. Art of the later Neolithic period is exemplified by exquisite ceramics, magnificent early bronze and gold castings, and the monumental architecture of the pyramids, ziggurats and megalithic structures of Newgrange and Stonehenge. Brought to life thanks to the efforts of archaeologists and paleoanthropologists, the art of prehistory remains an integral chapter in the evolution of man.

The Stone Age is a period in history during which humans and their ancestors made and used stone tools. It began around 3.3 million years ago and ended between 5,000 and 2,000 years ago, depending on location (stone tool use began and ended at different times in different parts of the world). 041b061a72


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