Paleolithic

The Paleolithic or Palaeolithic (/ˌpæliəˈlɪθɪk/), also called the Old Stone Age, is a period in human prehistory distinguished by the original development of stone tools that covers c. 99% of human technological prehistory.[1] It extends from the earliest known use of stone tools by hominins c. 3.3 million years ago, to the end of the Pleistocene c. 11,650 cal BP.[2]

The Paleolithic Age is followed in Europe by the Mesolithic Age, although the date of the transition varies geographically by several thousand years.

During the Paleolithic Age, hominins grouped together in small societies such as bands, and subsisted by gathering plants and fishing, hunting or scavenging wild animals.[3] The Paleolithic Age is characterized by the use of knapped stone tools, although at the time humans also used wood and bone tools. Other organic commodities were adapted for use as tools, including leather and vegetable fibers; however, due to their rapid decomposing nature, these have not been preserved to any great degree.

About 50,000 years ago, there was a marked increase in the diversity of artifacts. In Africa, bone artifacts and the first art appear in the archaeological record. The first evidence of human fishing is also noted, from artifacts in places such as Blombos cave in South Africa. Archaeologists classify artifacts of the last 50,000 years into many different categories, such as projectile points, engraving tools, knife blades, and drilling and piercing tools.

Humankind gradually evolved from early members of the genus Homosuch as Homo habilis, who used simple stone tools—into anatomically modern humans as well as behaviorally modern humans by the Upper Paleolithic.[4] During the end of the Paleolithic Age, specifically the Middle or Upper Paleolithic Age, humans began to produce the earliest works of art and began to engage in religious and spiritual behavior such as burial and ritual.[5][6] The climate during the Paleolithic Age consisted of a set of glacial and interglacial periods in which the climate periodically fluctuated between warm and cool temperatures. Archaeological and genetic data suggest that the source populations of Paleolithic humans survived in sparsely wooded areas and dispersed through areas of high primary productivity while avoiding dense forest cover.[7]

By c. 50,000 – c. 40,000 BP, the first humans set foot in Australia. By c. 45,000 BP, humans lived at 61°N latitude in Europe.[8] By c. 30,000 BP, Japan was reached, and by c. 27,000 BP humans were present in Siberia, above the Arctic Circle.[8] At the end of the Upper Paleolithic Age, a group of humans crossed Beringia and quickly expanded throughout the Americas.[9]

Glyptodon old drawing
Hunting a Glyptodon. Glyptodons were hunted to extinction within two millennia after humans' arrival in South America.

Etymology of paleolithic

The term "Palaeolithic" was coined by archaeologist John Lubbock in 1865.[10] It derives from Greek: παλαιός, palaios, "old"; and λίθος, lithos, "stone", meaning "old age of the stone" or "Old Stone Age".

Paleogeography and climate

Homo heidelbergensis. Museo de Prehistoria de Valencia
This skull, of early Homo neanderthalensis, Miguelón from the Lower Paleolithic dated to 430,000 bp.

The Paleolithic coincides almost exactly with the Pleistocene epoch of geologic time, which lasted from 2.6 million years ago to about 12,000 years ago.[11] This epoch experienced important geographic and climatic changes that affected human societies.

During the preceding Pliocene, continents had continued to drift from possibly as far as 250 km (160 mi) from their present locations to positions only 70 km (43 mi) from their current location. South America became linked to North America through the Isthmus of Panama, bringing a nearly complete end to South America's distinctive marsupial fauna. The formation of the isthmus had major consequences on global temperatures, because warm equatorial ocean currents were cut off, and the cold Arctic and Antarctic waters lowered temperatures in the now-isolated Atlantic Ocean.

Most of Central America formed during the Pliocene to connect the continents of North and South America, allowing fauna from these continents to leave their native habitats and colonize new areas.[12] Africa's collision with Asia created the Mediterranean, cutting off the remnants of the Tethys Ocean. During the Pleistocene, the modern continents were essentially at their present positions; the tectonic plates on which they sit have probably moved at most 100 km (62 mi) from each other since the beginning of the period.[13]

Climates during the Pliocene became cooler and drier, and seasonal, similar to modern climates. Ice sheets grew on Antarctica. The formation of an Arctic ice cap around 3 million years ago is signaled by an abrupt shift in oxygen isotope ratios and ice-rafted cobbles in the North Atlantic and North Pacific Ocean beds.[14] Mid-latitude glaciation probably began before the end of the epoch. The global cooling that occurred during the Pliocene may have spurred on the disappearance of forests and the spread of grasslands and savannas.[12] The Pleistocene climate was characterized by repeated glacial cycles during which continental glaciers pushed to the 40th parallel in some places. Four major glacial events have been identified, as well as many minor intervening events. A major event is a general glacial excursion, termed a "glacial". Glacials are separated by "interglacials". During a glacial, the glacier experiences minor advances and retreats. The minor excursion is a "stadial"; times between stadials are "interstadials". Each glacial advance tied up huge volumes of water in continental ice sheets 1,500–3,000 m (4,900–9,800 ft) deep, resulting in temporary sea level drops of 100 m (330 ft) or more over the entire surface of the Earth. During interglacial times, such as at present, drowned coastlines were common, mitigated by isostatic or other emergent motion of some regions.

Ice age fauna of northern Spain - Mauricio Antón
Many great mammals such as woolly mammoths, woolly rhinoceroses, and cave lions inhabited the mammoth steppe during the Pleistocene.

The effects of glaciation were global. Antarctica was ice-bound throughout the Pleistocene and the preceding Pliocene. The Andes were covered in the south by the Patagonian ice cap. There were glaciers in New Zealand and Tasmania. The now decaying glaciers of Mount Kenya, Mount Kilimanjaro, and the Ruwenzori Range in east and central Africa were larger. Glaciers existed in the mountains of Ethiopia and to the west in the Atlas mountains. In the northern hemisphere, many glaciers fused into one. The Cordilleran ice sheet covered the North American northwest; the Laurentide covered the east. The Fenno-Scandian ice sheet covered northern Europe, including Great Britain; the Alpine ice sheet covered the Alps. Scattered domes stretched across Siberia and the Arctic shelf. The northern seas were frozen. During the late Upper Paleolithic (Latest Pleistocene) c. 18,000 BP, the Beringia land bridge between Asia and North America was blocked by ice,[13] which may have prevented early Paleo-Indians such as the Clovis culture from directly crossing Beringia to reach the Americas.

According to Mark Lynas (through collected data), the Pleistocene's overall climate could be characterized as a continuous El Niño with trade winds in the south Pacific weakening or heading east, warm air rising near Peru, warm water spreading from the west Pacific and the Indian Ocean to the east Pacific, and other El Niño markers.[15]

The Paleolithic is often held to finish at the end of the ice age (the end of the Pleistocene epoch), and Earth's climate became warmer. This may have caused or contributed to the extinction of the Pleistocene megafauna, although it is also possible that the late Pleistocene extinctions were (at least in part) caused by other factors such as disease and overhunting by humans.[16][17] New research suggests that the extinction of the woolly mammoth may have been caused by the combined effect of climatic change and human hunting.[17] Scientists suggest that climate change during the end of the Pleistocene caused the mammoths' habitat to shrink in size, resulting in a drop in population. The small populations were then hunted out by Paleolithic humans.[17] The global warming that occurred during the end of the Pleistocene and the beginning of the Holocene may have made it easier for humans to reach mammoth habitats that were previously frozen and inaccessible.[17] Small populations of woolly mammoths survived on isolated Arctic islands, Saint Paul Island and Wrangel Island, until c. 3700 BP and c. 1700 BP respectively. The Wrangel Island population became extinct around the same time the island was settled by prehistoric humans.[18] There is no evidence of prehistoric human presence on Saint Paul island (though early human settlements dating as far back as 6500 BP were found on the nearby Aleutian Islands).[19]

Currently agreed upon classifications as Paleolithic geoclimatic episodes[20]
Age
(before)
America Atlantic Europe Maghreb Mediterranean Europe Central Europe
10,000 years Flandrian interglacial Flandriense Mellahiense Versiliense Flandrian interglacial
80,000 years Wisconsin Devensiense Regresión Regresión Wisconsin Stage
140,000 years Sangamoniense Ipswichiense Ouljiense Tirreniense II y III Eemian Stage
200,000 years Illinois Wolstoniense Regresión Regresión Wolstonian Stage
450,000 years Yarmouthiense Hoxniense Anfatiense Tirreniense I Hoxnian Stage
580,000 years Kansas Angliense Regresión Regresión Kansan Stage
750,000 years Aftoniense Cromeriense Maarifiense Siciliense Cromerian Complex
1,100,000 years Nebraska Beestoniense Regresión Regresión Beestonian stage
1,400,000 years interglaciar Ludhamiense Messaudiense Calabriense Donau-Günz

Human way of life

Terra-Amata-Hut
An artist's rendering of a temporary wood house, based on evidence found at Terra Amata (in Nice, France) and dated to the Lower Paleolithic (c. 400,000 BP)

Nearly all of our knowledge of Paleolithic human culture and way of life comes from archaeology and ethnographic comparisons to modern hunter-gatherer cultures such as the !Kung San who live similarly to their Paleolithic predecessors.[21] The economy of a typical Paleolithic society was a hunter-gatherer economy.[22] Humans hunted wild animals for meat and gathered food, firewood, and materials for their tools, clothes, or shelters.[22]

Human population density was very low, around only one person per square mile.[3] This was most likely due to low body fat, infanticide, women regularly engaging in intense endurance exercise,[23] late weaning of infants, and a nomadic lifestyle.[3] Like contemporary hunter-gatherers, Paleolithic humans enjoyed an abundance of leisure time unparalleled in both Neolithic farming societies and modern industrial societies.[22][24] At the end of the Paleolithic, specifically the Middle or Upper Paleolithic, humans began to produce works of art such as cave paintings, rock art and jewellery and began to engage in religious behavior such as burial and ritual.[25]

Distribution

At the beginning of the Paleolithic, hominins were found primarily in eastern Africa, east of the Great Rift Valley. Most known hominin fossils dating earlier than one million years before present are found in this area, particularly in Kenya, Tanzania, and Ethiopia.

By c. 2,000,000 – c. 1,500,000 BP, groups of hominins began leaving Africa and settling southern Europe and Asia. Southern Caucasus was occupied by c. 1,700,000 BP, and northern China was reached by c. 1,660,000 BP. By the end of the Lower Paleolithic, members of the hominin family were living in what is now China, western Indonesia, and, in Europe, around the Mediterranean and as far north as England, France, southern Germany, and Bulgaria. Their further northward expansion may have been limited by the lack of control of fire: studies of cave settlements in Europe indicate no regular use of fire prior to c. 400,000 – c. 300,000 BP.[26]

East Asian fossils from this period are typically placed in the genus Homo erectus. Very little fossil evidence is available at known Lower Paleolithic sites in Europe, but it is believed that hominins who inhabited these sites were likewise Homo erectus. There is no evidence of hominins in America, Australia, or almost anywhere in Oceania during this time period.

Fates of these early colonists, and their relationships to modern humans, are still subject to debate. According to current archaeological and genetic models, there were at least two notable expansion events subsequent to peopling of Eurasia c. 2,000,000 – c. 1,500,000 BP. Around 500,000 BP a group of early humans, frequently called Homo heidelbergensis, came to Europe from Africa and eventually evolved into Homo neanderthalensis (Neanderthals). In the Middle Paleolithic, Neanderthals were present in the region now occupied by Poland.

Both Homo erectus and Homo neanderthalensis became extinct by the end of the Paleolithic. Descended from Homo Sapiens, the anatomically modern Homo sapiens sapiens emerged in eastern Africa c. 200,000 BP, left Africa around 50,000 BP, and expanded throughout the planet. Multiple hominid groups coexisted for some time in certain locations. Homo neanderthalensis were still found in parts of Eurasia c. 30,000 BP years, and engaged in an unknown degree of interbreeding with Homo sapiens sapiens. DNA studies also suggest an unknown degree of interbreeding between Homo sapiens sapiens and Homo sapiens denisova.[27]

Hominin fossils not belonging either to Homo neanderthalensis or to Homo sapiens species, found in the Altai Mountains and Indonesia, were radiocarbon dated to c. 30,000 – c. 40,000 BP and c. 17,000 BP respectively.

For the duration of the Paleolithic, human populations remained low, especially outside the equatorial region. The entire population of Europe between 16,000 and 11,000 BP likely averaged some 30,000 individuals, and between 40,000 and 16,000 BP, it was even lower at 4,000–6,000 individuals.[28]

Technology

Bifaz de Atapuerca (TG10)
Lower Paleolithic biface viewed from both its superior and inferior surface
Bola-Sidi-Abderrahman
Stone ball from a set of Paleolithic bolas

Tools

Paleolithic humans made tools of stone, bone, and wood.[22] The early paleolithic hominins, Australopithecus, were the first users of stone tools. Excavations in Gona, Ethiopia have produced thousands of artifacts, and through radioisotopic dating and magnetostratigraphy, the sites can be firmly dated to 2.6 million years ago. Evidence shows these early hominins intentionally selected raw materials with good flaking qualities and chose appropriate sized stones for their needs to produce sharp-edged tools for cutting.[29]

The earliest Paleolithic stone tool industry, the Oldowan, began around 2.6 million years ago.[30] It contained tools such as choppers, burins, and stitching awls. It was completely replaced around 250,000 years ago by the more complex Acheulean industry, which was first conceived by Homo ergaster around 1.8–1.65 million years ago.[31] The Acheulean implements completely vanish from the archaeological record around 100,000 years ago and were replaced by more complex Middle Paleolithic tool kits such as the Mousterian and the Aterian industries.[32]

Lower Paleolithic humans used a variety of stone tools, including hand axes and choppers. Although they appear to have used hand axes often, there is disagreement about their use. Interpretations range from cutting and chopping tools, to digging implements, to flaking cores, to the use in traps, and as a purely ritual significance, perhaps in courting behavior. William H. Calvin has suggested that some hand axes could have served as "killer Frisbees" meant to be thrown at a herd of animals at a waterhole so as to stun one of them. There are no indications of hafting, and some artifacts are far too large for that. Thus, a thrown hand axe would not usually have penetrated deeply enough to cause very serious injuries. Nevertheless, it could have been an effective weapon for defense against predators. Choppers and scrapers were likely used for skinning and butchering scavenged animals and sharp-ended sticks were often obtained for digging up edible roots. Presumably, early humans used wooden spears as early as 5 million years ago to hunt small animals, much as their relatives, chimpanzees, have been observed to do in Senegal, Africa.[33] Lower Paleolithic humans constructed shelters, such as the possible wood hut at Terra Amata.

Fire use

Fire was used by the Lower Paleolithic hominins Homo erectus and Homo ergaster as early as 300,000 to 1.5 million years ago and possibly even earlier by the early Lower Paleolithic (Oldowan) hominin Homo habilis or by robust Australopithecines such as Paranthropus.[3] However, the use of fire only became common in the societies of the following Middle Stone Age and Middle Paleolithic.[34] Use of fire reduced mortality rates and provided protection against predators.[35] Early hominins may have begun to cook their food as early as the Lower Paleolithic (c. 1.9 million years ago) or at the latest in the early Middle Paleolithic (c. 250,000 years ago).[36] Some scientists have hypothesized that hominins began cooking food to defrost frozen meat, which would help ensure their survival in cold regions.[36]

Rafts

The Lower Paleolithic Homo erectus possibly invented rafts (c. 840,000 – c. 800,000 BP) to travel over large bodies of water, which may have allowed a group of Homo erectus to reach the island of Flores and evolve into the small hominin Homo floresiensis. However, this hypothesis is disputed within the anthropological community.[37][38] The possible use of rafts during the Lower Paleolithic may indicate that Lower Paleolithic hominins such as Homo erectus were more advanced than previously believed, and may have even spoken an early form of modern language.[37] Supplementary evidence from Neanderthal and modern human sites located around the Mediterranean Sea, such as Coa de sa Multa (c. 300,000 BP), has also indicated that both Middle and Upper Paleolithic humans used rafts to travel over large bodies of water (i.e. the Mediterranean Sea) for the purpose of colonizing other bodies of land.[37][39]

Advanced tools

By around 200,000 BP, Middle Paleolithic stone tool manufacturing spawned a tool making technique known as the prepared-core technique, that was more elaborate than previous Acheulean techniques.[4] This technique increased efficiency by allowing the creation of more controlled and consistent flakes.[4] It allowed Middle Paleolithic humans to create stone tipped spears, which were the earliest composite tools, by hafting sharp, pointy stone flakes onto wooden shafts. In addition to improving tool making methods, the Middle Paleolithic also saw an improvement of the tools themselves that allowed access to a wider variety and amount of food sources. For example, microliths or small stone tools or points were invented around 70,000–65,000 BP and were essential to the invention of bows and spear throwers in the following Upper Paleolithic.[35]

Harpoons were invented and used for the first time during the late Middle Paleolithic (c. 90,000 BP); the invention of these devices brought fish into the human diets, which provided a hedge against starvation and a more abundant food supply.[39][40] Thanks to their technology and their advanced social structures, Paleolithic groups such as the Neanderthals—who had a Middle Paleolithic level of technology—appear to have hunted large game just as well as Upper Paleolithic modern humans.[41] and the Neanderthals in particular may have likewise hunted with projectile weapons.[42] Nonetheless, Neanderthal use of projectile weapons in hunting occurred very rarely (or perhaps never) and the Neanderthals hunted large game animals mostly by ambushing them and attacking them with mêlée weapons such as thrusting spears rather than attacking them from a distance with projectile weapons.[25][43]

Other inventions

During the Upper Paleolithic, further inventions were made, such as the net c. 22,000 or c. 29,000 BP)[35] bolas,[44] the spear thrower (c. 30,000 BP), the bow and arrow (c. 25,000 or c. 30,000 BP)[3] and the oldest example of ceramic art, the Venus of Dolní Věstonice (c. 29,000 – c. 25,000 BP).[3] Early dogs were domesticated, sometime between 30,000 and 14,000 BP, presumably to aid in hunting.[45] However, the earliest instances of successful domestication of dogs may be much more ancient than this. Evidence from canine DNA collected by Robert K. Wayne suggests that dogs may have been first domesticated in the late Middle Paleolithic around 100,000 BP or perhaps even earlier.[46]

Archaeological evidence from the Dordogne region of France demonstrates that members of the European early Upper Paleolithic culture known as the Aurignacian used calendars (c. 30,000 BP). This was a lunar calendar that was used to document the phases of the moon. Genuine solar calendars did not appear until the Neolithic.[47] Upper Paleolithic cultures were probably able to time the migration of game animals such as wild horses and deer.[48] This ability allowed humans to become efficient hunters and to exploit a wide variety of game animals.[48] Recent research indicates that the Neanderthals timed their hunts and the migrations of game animals long before the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic.[41]

Social organization

Arrowhead
Humans may have taken part in long-distance trade between bands for rare commodities and raw materials (such as stone needed for making tools) as early as 120,000 years ago in Middle Paleolithic.

The social organization of the earliest Paleolithic (Lower Paleolithic) societies remains largely unknown to scientists, though Lower Paleolithic hominins such as Homo habilis and Homo erectus are likely to have had more complex social structures than chimpanzee societies.[49] Late Oldowan/Early Acheulean humans such as Homo ergaster/Homo erectus may have been the first people to invent central campsites or home bases and incorporate them into their foraging and hunting strategies like contemporary hunter-gatherers, possibly as early as 1.7 million years ago;[4] however, the earliest solid evidence for the existence of home bases or central campsites (hearths and shelters) among humans only dates back to 500,000 years ago.[4]

Similarly, scientists disagree whether Lower Paleolithic humans were largely monogamous or polygynous.[49] In particular, the Provisional model suggests that bipedalism arose in pre-Paleolithic australopithecine societies as an adaptation to monogamous lifestyles; however, other researchers note that sexual dimorphism is more pronounced in Lower Paleolithic humans such as Homo erectus than in modern humans, who are less polygynous than other primates, which suggests that Lower Paleolithic humans had a largely polygynous lifestyle, because species that have the most pronounced sexual dimorphism tend more likely to be polygynous.[50]

Human societies from the Paleolithic to the early Neolithic farming tribes lived without states and organized governments. For most of the Lower Paleolithic, human societies were possibly more hierarchical than their Middle and Upper Paleolithic descendants, and probably were not grouped into bands,[51] though during the end of the Lower Paleolithic, the latest populations of the hominin Homo erectus may have begun living in small-scale (possibly egalitarian) bands similar to both Middle and Upper Paleolithic societies and modern hunter-gatherers.[51]

Middle Paleolithic societies, unlike Lower Paleolithic and early Neolithic ones, consisted of bands that ranged from 20–30 or 25–100 members and were usually nomadic.[3][51] These bands were formed by several families. Bands sometimes joined together into larger "macrobands" for activities such as acquiring mates and celebrations or where resources were abundant.[3] By the end of the Paleolithic era (c. 10,000 BP), people began to settle down into permanent locations, and began to rely on agriculture for sustenance in many locations. Much evidence exists that humans took part in long-distance trade between bands for rare commodities (such as ochre, which was often used for religious purposes such as ritual[52][53]) and raw materials, as early as 120,000 years ago in Middle Paleolithic.[25] Inter-band trade may have appeared during the Middle Paleolithic because trade between bands would have helped ensure their survival by allowing them to exchange resources and commodities such as raw materials during times of relative scarcity (i.e. famine, drought).[25] Like in modern hunter-gatherer societies, individuals in Paleolithic societies may have been subordinate to the band as a whole.[21][22] Both Neanderthals and modern humans took care of the elderly members of their societies during the Middle and Upper Paleolithic.[25]

Some sources claim that most Middle and Upper Paleolithic societies were possibly fundamentally egalitarian[3][22][39][54] and may have rarely or never engaged in organized violence between groups (i.e. war).[39][55][56][57] Some Upper Paleolithic societies in resource-rich environments (such as societies in Sungir, in what is now Russia) may have had more complex and hierarchical organization (such as tribes with a pronounced hierarchy and a somewhat formal division of labor) and may have engaged in endemic warfare.[39][58] Some argue that there was no formal leadership during the Middle and Upper Paleolithic. Like contemporary egalitarian hunter-gatherers such as the Mbuti pygmies, societies may have made decisions by communal consensus decision making rather than by appointing permanent rulers such as chiefs and monarchs.[6] Nor was there a formal division of labor during the Paleolithic. Each member of the group was skilled at all tasks essential to survival, regardless of individual abilities. Theories to explain the apparent egalitarianism have arisen, notably the Marxist concept of primitive communism.[59][60] Christopher Boehm (1999) has hypothesized that egalitarianism may have evolved in Paleolithic societies because of a need to distribute resources such as food and meat equally to avoid famine and ensure a stable food supply.[61] Raymond C. Kelly speculates that the relative peacefulness of Middle and Upper Paleolithic societies resulted from a low population density, cooperative relationships between groups such as reciprocal exchange of commodities and collaboration on hunting expeditions, and because the invention of projectile weapons such as throwing spears provided less incentive for war, because they increased the damage done to the attacker and decreased the relative amount of territory attackers could gain.[57] However, other sources claim that most Paleolithic groups may have been larger, more complex, sedentary and warlike than most contemporary hunter-gatherer societies, due to occupying more resource-abundant areas than most modern hunter-gatherers who have been pushed into more marginal habitats by agricultural societies.[62]

Anthropologists have typically assumed that in Paleolithic societies, women were responsible for gathering wild plants and firewood, and men were responsible for hunting and scavenging dead animals.[3][39] However, analogies to existent hunter-gatherer societies such as the Hadza people and the Aboriginal Australians suggest that the sexual division of labor in the Paleolithic was relatively flexible. Men may have participated in gathering plants, firewood and insects, and women may have procured small game animals for consumption and assisted men in driving herds of large game animals (such as woolly mammoths and deer) off cliffs.[39][56] Additionally, recent research by anthropologist and archaeologist Steven Kuhn from the University of Arizona is argued to support that this division of labor did not exist prior to the Upper Paleolithic and was invented relatively recently in human pre-history.[63][64] Sexual division of labor may have been developed to allow humans to acquire food and other resources more efficiently.[64] Possibly there was approximate parity between men and women during the Middle and Upper Paleolithic, and that period may have been the most gender-equal time in human history.[55][65][66] Archaeological evidence from art and funerary rituals indicates that a number of individual women enjoyed seemingly high status in their communities, and it is likely that both sexes participated in decision making.[66] The earliest known Paleolithic shaman (c. 30,000 BP) was female.[67] Jared Diamond suggests that the status of women declined with the adoption of agriculture because women in farming societies typically have more pregnancies and are expected to do more demanding work than women in hunter-gatherer societies.[68] Like most contemporary hunter-gatherer societies, Paleolithic and the Mesolithic groups probably followed mostly matrilineal and ambilineal descent patterns; patrilineal descent patterns were probably rarer than in the Neolithic.[35][53]

Sculpture and painting

Wien NHM Venus von Willendorf
The Venus of Willendorf is one of the most famous Venus figurines.

Early examples of artistic expression, such as the Venus of Tan-Tan and the patterns found on elephant bones from Bilzingsleben in Thuringia, may have been produced by Acheulean tool users such as Homo erectus prior to the start of the Middle Paleolithic period. However, the earliest undisputed evidence of art during the Paleolithic comes from Middle Paleolithic/Middle Stone Age sites such as Blombos Cave–South Africa–in the form of bracelets,[69] beads,[70] rock art,[52] and ochre used as body paint and perhaps in ritual.[39][52] Undisputed evidence of art only becomes common in the Upper Paleolithic.[71]

Lower Paleolithic Acheulean tool users, according to Robert G. Bednarik, began to engage in symbolic behavior such as art around 850,000 BP. They decorated themselves with beads and collected exotic stones for aesthetic, rather than utilitarian qualities.[72] According to him, traces of the pigment ochre from late Lower Paleolithic Acheulean archaeological sites suggests that Acheulean societies, like later Upper Paleolithic societies, collected and used ochre to create rock art.[72] Nevertheless, it is also possible that the ochre traces found at Lower Paleolithic sites is naturally occurring.[73]

Upper Paleolithic humans produced works of art such as cave paintings, Venus figurines, animal carvings, and rock paintings.[74] Upper Paleolithic art can be divided into two broad categories: figurative art such as cave paintings that clearly depicts animals (or more rarely humans); and nonfigurative, which consists of shapes and symbols.[74] Cave paintings have been interpreted in a number of ways by modern archaeologists. The earliest explanation, by the prehistorian Abbe Breuil, interpreted the paintings as a form of magic designed to ensure a successful hunt.[75] However, this hypothesis fails to explain the existence of animals such as saber-toothed cats and lions, which were not hunted for food, and the existence of half-human, half-animal beings in cave paintings. The anthropologist David Lewis-Williams has suggested that Paleolithic cave paintings were indications of shamanistic practices, because the paintings of half-human, half-animal paintings and the remoteness of the caves are reminiscent of modern hunter-gatherer shamanistic practices.[75] Symbol-like images are more common in Paleolithic cave paintings than are depictions of animals or humans, and unique symbolic patterns might have been trademarks that represent different Upper Paleolithic ethnic groups.[74] Venus figurines have evoked similar controversy. Archaeologists and anthropologists have described the figurines as representations of goddesses, pornographic imagery, apotropaic amulets used for sympathetic magic, and even as self-portraits of women themselves.[39][76]

R. Dale Guthrie[77] has studied not only the most artistic and publicized paintings, but also a variety of lower-quality art and figurines, and he identifies a wide range of skill and ages among the artists. He also points out that the main themes in the paintings and other artifacts (powerful beasts, risky hunting scenes and the over-sexual representation of women) are to be expected in the fantasies of adolescent males during the Upper Paleolithic.

The "Venus" figurines have been theorized, not universally, as representing a mother goddess; the abundance of such female imagery has inspired the theory that religion and society in Paleolithic (and later Neolithic) cultures were primarily interested in, and may have been directed by, women. Adherents of the theory include archaeologist Marija Gimbutas and feminist scholar Merlin Stone, the author of the 1976 book When God Was a Woman.[78][79] Other explanations for the purpose of the figurines have been proposed, such as Catherine McCoid and LeRoy McDermott's hypothesis that they were self-portraits of woman artists[76] and R.Dale Gutrie's hypothesis that served as "stone age pornography".

Music

The origins of music during the Paleolithic are unknown. The earliest forms of music probably did not use musical instruments other than the human voice or natural objects such as rocks. This early music would not have left an archaeological footprint. Music may have developed from rhythmic sounds produced by daily chores, for example, cracking open nuts with stones. Maintaining a rhythm while working may have helped people to become more efficient at daily activities.[80] An alternative theory originally proposed by Charles Darwin explains that music may have begun as a hominin mating strategy. Bird and other animal species produce music such as calls to attract mates.[81] This hypothesis is generally less accepted than the previous hypothesis, but nonetheless provides a possible alternative.

Upper Paleolithic (and possibly Middle Paleolithic)[82] humans used flute-like bone pipes as musical instruments,[39][83] and music may have played a large role in the religious lives of Upper Paleolithic hunter-gatherers. As with modern hunter-gatherer societies, music may have been used in ritual or to help induce trances. In particular, it appears that animal skin drums may have been used in religious events by Upper Paleolithic shamans, as shown by the remains of drum-like instruments from some Upper Paleolithic graves of shamans and the ethnographic record of contemporary hunter-gatherer shamanic and ritual practices.[67][74]

Religion and beliefs

Gabillou Sorcier
Picture of a half-human, half-animal being in a Paleolithic cave painting in Dordogne. France. Some archaeologists believe that cave paintings of half-human, half-animal beings may be evidence for early shamanic practices during the Paleolithic.

According to James B. Harrod humankind first developed religious and spiritual beliefs during the Middle Paleolithic or Upper Paleolithic.[84] Controversial scholars of prehistoric religion and anthropology, James Harrod and Vincent W. Fallio, have recently proposed that religion and spirituality (and art) may have first arisen in Pre-Paleolithic chimpanzees[85] or Early Lower Paleolithic (Oldowan) societies.[86][87] According to Fallio, the common ancestor of chimpanzees and humans experienced altered states of consciousness and partook in ritual, and ritual was used in their societies to strengthen social bonding and group cohesion.[86]

Middle Paleolithic humans' use of burials at sites such as Krapina, Croatia (c. 130,000 BP) and Qafzeh, Israel (c. 100,000 BP) have led some anthropologists and archaeologists, such as Philip Lieberman, to believe that Middle Paleolithic humans may have possessed a belief in an afterlife and a "concern for the dead that transcends daily life".[5] Cut marks on Neanderthal bones from various sites, such as Combe-Grenal and Abri Moula in France, suggest that the Neanderthals—like some contemporary human cultures—may have practiced ritual defleshing for (presumably) religious reasons. According to recent archaeological findings from Homo heidelbergensis sites in Atapuerca, humans may have begun burying their dead much earlier, during the late Lower Paleolithic; but this theory is widely questioned in the scientific community.

Likewise, some scientists have proposed that Middle Paleolithic societies such as Neanderthal societies may also have practiced the earliest form of totemism or animal worship, in addition to their (presumably religious) burial of the dead. In particular, Emil Bächler suggested (based on archaeological evidence from Middle Paleolithic caves) that a bear cult was widespread among Middle Paleolithic Neanderthals.[88] A claim that evidence was found for Middle Paleolithic animal worship c. 70,000 BCE originates from the Tsodilo Hills in the African Kalahari desert has been denied by the original investigators of the site.[89] Animal cults in the Upper Paleolithic, such as the bear cult, may have had their origins in these hypothetical Middle Paleolithic animal cults.[90] Animal worship during the Upper Paleolithic was intertwined with hunting rites.[90] For instance, archaeological evidence from art and bear remains reveals that the bear cult apparently involved a type of sacrificial bear ceremonialism, in which a bear was sliced with arrows, finished off by a blast in the lungs, and ritualistically worshipped near a clay bear statue covered by a bear fur with the skull and the body of the bear buried separately.[90] Barbara Ehrenreich controversially theorizes that the sacrificial hunting rites of the Upper Paleolithic (and by extension Paleolithic cooperative big-game hunting) gave rise to war or warlike raiding during the following Epipaleolithic and Mesolithic or late Upper Paleolithic.[56]

The existence of anthropomorphic images and half-human, half-animal images in the Upper Paleolithic may further indicate that Upper Paleolithic humans were the first people to believe in a pantheon of gods or supernatural beings,[91] though such images may instead indicate shamanistic practices similar to those of contemporary tribal societies.[75] The earliest known undisputed burial of a shaman (and by extension the earliest undisputed evidence of shamans and shamanic practices) dates back to the early Upper Paleolithic era (c. 30,000 BP) in what is now the Czech Republic.[67] However, during the early Upper Paleolithic it was probably more common for all members of the band to participate equally and fully in religious ceremonies, in contrast to the religious traditions of later periods when religious authorities and part-time ritual specialists such as shamans, priests and medicine men were relatively common and integral to religious life.[22] Additionally, it is also possible that Upper Paleolithic religions, like contemporary and historical animistic and polytheistic religions, believed in the existence of a single creator deity in addition to other supernatural beings such as animistic spirits.[92]

Religion was possibly apotropaic; specifically, it may have involved sympathetic magic.[39] The Venus figurines, which are abundant in the Upper Paleolithic archaeological record, provide an example of possible Paleolithic sympathetic magic, as they may have been used for ensuring success in hunting and to bring about fertility of the land and women.[3] The Upper Paleolithic Venus figurines have sometimes been explained as depictions of an earth goddess similar to Gaia, or as representations of a goddess who is the ruler or mother of the animals.[90][93] James Harrod has described them as representative of female (and male) shamanistic spiritual transformation processes.[94]

Diet and nutrition

Wine grapes03
People may have first fermented grapes in animal skin pouches to create wine during the Paleolithic age.[95]

Paleolithic hunting and gathering people ate varying proportions of vegetables (including tubers and roots), fruit, seeds (including nuts and wild grass seeds) and insects, meat, fish, and shellfish.[96][97] However, there is little direct evidence of the relative proportions of plant and animal foods.[98] Although the term "paleolithic diet", without references to a specific timeframe or locale, is sometimes used with an implication that most humans shared a certain diet during the entire era, that is not entirely accurate. The Paleolithic was an extended period of time, during which multiple technological advances were made, many of which had impact on human dietary structure. For example, humans probably did not possess the control of fire until the Middle Paleolithic,[99] or tools necessary to engage in extensive fishing. On the other hand, both these technologies are generally agreed to have been widely available to humans by the end of the Paleolithic (consequently, allowing humans in some regions of the planet to rely heavily on fishing and hunting). In addition, the Paleolithic involved a substantial geographical expansion of human populations. During the Lower Paleolithic, ancestors of modern humans are thought to have been constrained to Africa east of the Great Rift Valley. During the Middle and Upper Paleolithic, humans greatly expanded their area of settlement, reaching ecosystems as diverse as New Guinea and Alaska, and adapting their diets to whatever local resources were available.

Another view is that until the Upper Paleolithic, humans were frugivores (fruit eaters) who supplemented their meals with carrion, eggs, and small prey such as baby birds and mussels, and only on rare occasions managed to kill and consume big game such as antelopes.[100] This view is supported by studies of higher apes, particularly chimpanzees. Chimpanzees are the closest to humans genetically, sharing more than 96% of their DNA code with humans, and their digestive tract is functionally very similar to that of humans.[101] Chimpanzees are primarily frugivores, but they could and would consume and digest animal flesh, given the opportunity. In general, their actual diet in the wild is about 95% plant-based, with the remaining 5% filled with insects, eggs, and baby animals.[102][103] In some ecosystems, however, chimpanzees are predatory, forming parties to hunt monkeys.[104] Some comparative studies of human and higher primate digestive tracts do suggest that humans have evolved to obtain greater amounts of calories from sources such as animal foods, allowing them to shrink the size of the gastrointestinal tract relative to body mass and to increase the brain mass instead.[105][106]

Anthropologists have diverse opinions about the proportions of plant and animal foods consumed. Just as with still existing hunters and gatherers, there were many varied "diets"—in different groups—and also varying through this vast amount of time. Some paleolithic hunter-gatherers consumed a significant amount of meat and possibly obtained most of their food from hunting,[107] while others are shown as a primarily plant-based diet,[63] Most, if not all, are believed to have been opportunistic omnivores.[108] One hypothesis is that carbohydrate tubers (plant underground storage organs) may have been eaten in high amounts by pre-agricultural humans.[109][110][111][112] It is thought that the Paleolithic diet included as much as 1.65–1.9 kg (3.6–4.2 lb) per day of fruit and vegetables.[113] The relative proportions of plant and animal foods in the diets of Paleolithic people often varied between regions, with more meat being necessary in colder regions (which weren't populated by anatomically modern humans until c. 30,000 – c. 50,000 BP).[114] It is generally agreed that many modern hunting and fishing tools, such as fish hooks, nets, bows, and poisons, weren't introduced until the Upper Paleolithic and possibly even Neolithic.[35] The only hunting tools widely available to humans during any significant part of the Paleolithic were hand-held spears and harpoons. There's evidence of Paleolithic people killing and eating seals and elands as far as c. 100,000 BP. On the other hand, buffalo bones found in African caves from the same period are typically of very young or very old individuals, and there's no evidence that pigs, elephants, or rhinos were hunted by humans at the time.[115]

Paleolithic peoples suffered less famine and malnutrition than the Neolithic farming tribes that followed them.[21][116] This was partly because Paleolithic hunter-gatherers accessed a wider variety of natural foods, which allowed them a more nutritious diet and a decreased risk of famine.[21][23][68] Many of the famines experienced by Neolithic (and some modern) farmers were caused or amplified by their dependence on a small number of crops.[21][23][68] It is thought that wild foods can have a significantly different nutritional profile than cultivated foods.[117] The greater amount of meat obtained by hunting big game animals in Paleolithic diets than Neolithic diets may have also allowed Paleolithic hunter-gatherers to enjoy a more nutritious diet than Neolithic agriculturalists.[116] It has been argued that the shift from hunting and gathering to agriculture resulted in an increasing focus on a limited variety of foods, with meat likely taking a back seat to plants.[118] It is also unlikely that Paleolithic hunter-gatherers were affected by modern diseases of affluence such as type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and cerebrovascular disease, because they ate mostly lean meats and plants and frequently engaged in intense physical activity,[119][120] and because the average lifespan was shorter than the age of common onset of these conditions.[121][122]

Large-seeded legumes were part of the human diet long before the Neolithic Revolution, as evident from archaeobotanical finds from the Mousterian layers of Kebara Cave, in Israel.[123] There is evidence suggesting that Paleolithic societies were gathering wild cereals for food use at least as early as 30,000 years ago.[124] However, seeds—such as grains and beans—were rarely eaten and never in large quantities on a daily basis.[125] Recent archaeological evidence also indicates that winemaking may have originated in the Paleolithic, when early humans drank the juice of naturally fermented wild grapes from animal-skin pouches.[95] Paleolithic humans consumed animal organ meats, including the livers, kidneys, and brains. Upper Paleolithic cultures appear to have had significant knowledge about plants and herbs and may have, albeit very rarely, practiced rudimentary forms of horticulture.[126] In particular, bananas and tubers may have been cultivated as early as 25,000 BP in southeast Asia.[62] Late Upper Paleolithic societies also appear to have occasionally practiced pastoralism and animal husbandry, presumably for dietary reasons. For instance, some European late Upper Paleolithic cultures domesticated and raised reindeer, presumably for their meat or milk, as early as 14,000 BP.[45] Humans also probably consumed hallucinogenic plants during the Paleolithic.[3] The Aboriginal Australians have been consuming a variety of native animal and plant foods, called bushfood, for an estimated 60,000 years, since the Middle Paleolithic.

Quivira-Whitetail-Buck
Large game animals such as deer were an important source of protein in Middle and Upper Paleolithic diets.

In February 2019, scientists reported evidence, based on isotope studies, that at least some Neanderthals may have eaten meat.[127][128][129] People during the Middle Paleolithic, such as the Neanderthals and Middle Paleolithic Homo sapiens in Africa, began to catch shellfish for food as revealed by shellfish cooking in Neanderthal sites in Italy about 110,000 years ago and in Middle Paleolithic Homo sapiens sites at Pinnacle Point, Africa around 164,000 BP.[39][130] Although fishing only became common during the Upper Paleolithic,[39][131] fish have been part of human diets long before the dawn of the Upper Paleolithic and have certainly been consumed by humans since at least the Middle Paleolithic.[48] For example, the Middle Paleolithic Homo sapiens in the region now occupied by the Democratic Republic of the Congo hunted large 6 ft (1.8 m)-long catfish with specialized barbed fishing points as early as 90,000 years ago.[39][48] The invention of fishing allowed some Upper Paleolithic and later hunter-gatherer societies to become sedentary or semi-nomadic, which altered their social structures.[83] Example societies are the Lepenski Vir as well as some contemporary hunter-gatherers, such as the Tlingit. In some instances (at least the Tlingit), they developed social stratification, slavery, and complex social structures such as chiefdoms.[35]

Anthropologists such as Tim White suggest that cannibalism was common in human societies prior to the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic, based on the large amount of “butchered human" bones found in Neanderthal and other Lower/Middle Paleolithic sites.[132] Cannibalism in the Lower and Middle Paleolithic may have occurred because of food shortages.[133] However, it may have been for religious reasons, and would coincide with the development of religious practices thought to have occurred during the Upper Paleolithic.[90][134] Nonetheless, it remains possible that Paleolithic societies never practiced cannibalism, and that the damage to recovered human bones was either the result of excarnation or predation by carnivores such as saber-toothed cats, lions, and hyenas.[90]

A modern-day diet known as the Paleolithic diet exists, based on restricting consumption to the foods presumed to be available to anatomically modern humans prior to the advent of settled agriculture.[135]

See also

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External links

Art of the Middle Paleolithic

The oldest undisputed examples of figurative art are known from Europe and from Sulawesi, Indonesia, dated about 35,000 years old (Art of the Upper Paleolithic).

Together with religion and other cultural universals of contemporary human societies, the emergence of figurative art is a necessary attribute of full behavioral modernity.

There are, however, some examples of non-figurative designs which somewhat predate the Upper Paleolithic, beginning about 70,000 years ago (MIS 4).

These include the earliest of the Iberian cave paintings, including a hand stencil at the Cave of Maltravieso, a simple linear design, and red paint applied to speleothems, dated to at least 64,000 years ago and as such attributable to Neanderthals. Similarly, the Blombos Cave of South Africa yielded some stones with engraved grid or cross-hatch patterns, dated to some 70,000 years ago, but they are attributed to Homo Sapiens.

In September 2018, scientists reported the discovery of the earliest known drawing by Homo sapiens, which is estimated to be 73,000 years old, much earlier than the 43,000 years old artifacts understood to be the earliest known modern human drawings found previously.

Art of the Upper Paleolithic

The art of the Upper Paleolithic represents the oldest form of prehistoric art. Figurative art is present in Europe as well as in Sulawesi, Indonesia, beginning at least 35,000 years ago.

Non-figurative cave paintings, consisting of hand stencils and simple geometric shapes, is at least 40,000 years old.

According to a 2018 study based on uranium-thorium dating, the oldest examples of Iberian cave art were made as early as 64,000 years ago, implying Neanderthal authorship, which would qualify as art of the Middle Paleolithic.The emergence of figurative art has been interpreted as reflecting the emergence of full behavioral modernity, and is part of the defining characteristics separating the Upper Paleolithic from the Middle Paleolithic.

The discovery of cave art of comparable age to the oldest European samples in Indonesia has established that similar artistic traditions existed both in eastern and in western Eurasia at 40,000 years ago. This has been taken to suggest that such an artistic tradition must in fact date to more than 50,000 years ago, and would have been spread along the southern coast of Eurasia in the original coastal migration movement. It is important to note that most of the art of this period is expected to have been lost, as it was submerged in the early Holocene sea level rise.

Cave art in Europe continued to the Mesolithic (at the beginnings of the Holocene) about 12,000 years ago.

European Upper Paleolithic art is also known informally as "Ice Age art", in reference to the last glacial period.In November 2018, scientists reported the discovery of the oldest known figurative art painting, over 40,000 (perhaps as old as 52,000) years old, of an unknown animal, in a cave on the Indonesian island of Borneo.

Aurignacian

The Aurignacian () is an archaeological tradition of the Upper Palaeolithic

associated with European early modern humans (EEMH). The Upper Paleolithic developed in Europe some time after the Levant, where the Emiran period and the Ahmarian period form the very first periods of the Upper Paleolithic, corresponding to the first stages of the expansion of Homo sapiens out of Africa. From this stage, the first modern humans probably migrated to Europe to form the beginning of the European Upper Paleolithic, including the Aurignacian culture.An Early Aurignacian or Proto-Aurignacian stage is dated between about 43,000 and 37,000 years ago. The Aurignacian proper lasts from about 37,000 to 33,000 years ago. A Late Aurignacian phase transitional with the Gravettian dates to about 33,000 to 26,000 years ago.

The type site is the Cave of Aurignac, Haute-Garonne, south-west France. The main preceding period is the Mousterian of the Neanderthals.

One of the oldest examples of figurative art, the Venus of Hohle Fels, comes from the Aurignacian and is dated to between 40,000 and 35,000 years ago (though now earlier figurative art may be known, see Lubang Jeriji Saléh). It was discovered in September 2008 in a cave at Schelklingen in Baden-Württemberg in western Germany. The German Lion-man figure is given a similar date range. The Bacho Kiro site in Bulgaria is one of the earliest known Aurignacian burials.A "Levantine Aurignacian" culture is known from the Levant, with a type of blade technology very similar to the European Aurignacian, following chronologically the Emiran and Early Ahmarian in the same area of the Near East, and also closely related to them. The Levantine Aurignacian may have preceded European Aurignacian, but there is a possibility that the Levantine Aurignacian was rather the result of reverse influence from the European Aurignacian: this remains unsettled.

Behavioral modernity

Behavioral modernity is a suite of behavioral and cognitive traits that distinguishes current Homo sapiens from other anatomically modern humans, hominins, and primates. Although often debated, most scholars agree that modern human behavior can be characterized by abstract thinking, planning depth, symbolic behavior (e.g., art, ornamentation), music and dance, exploitation of large game, and blade technology, among others. Underlying these behaviors and technological innovations are cognitive and cultural foundations that have been documented experimentally and ethnographically. Some of these human universal patterns are cumulative cultural adaptation, social norms, language, and extensive help and cooperation beyond close kin. It has been argued that the development of these modern behavioral traits, in combination with the climatic conditions of the Last Glacial Maximum causing genetic bottlenecks, was largely responsible for the human replacement of Neanderthals, Denisovans, and the other species of humans of the rest of the world.Arising from differences in the archaeological record, a debate continues as to whether anatomically modern humans were behaviorally modern as well. There are many theories on the evolution of behavioral modernity. These generally fall into two camps: gradualist and cognitive approaches. The Later Upper Paleolithic Model refers to the theory that modern human behavior arose through cognitive, genetic changes abruptly around 40,000–50,000 years ago. Other models focus on how modern human behavior may have arisen through gradual steps; the archaeological signatures of such behavior only appearing through demographic or subsistence-based changes.

Cave of Altamira and Paleolithic Cave Art of Northern Spain

Under the name Cave of Altamira and Paleolithic Cave Art of Northern Spain (Cueva de Altamira y arte rupestre paleolítico del Norte de España) are grouped 18 caves of northern Spain, which together represent the apogee of Upper Paleolithic cave art in Europe between 35,000 and 11,000 years ago (Aurignacian, Gravettian, Solutrean, Magdalenian, Azilian).

They have been collectively designated a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 2008.

Chief among these caves is Altamira, located within the town of Santillana del Mar in Cantabria. It remains one of the most important painting cycles of prehistory, originating in the Magdalenian and Solutrean periods of the Upper Paleolithic. This cave's artistic style represents the Franco-cantabrian school, characterized by the realism of its figural representation. Altamira Cave was declared a World Heritage Site in 1985.

In 2008 the World Heritage Site was expanded to include 17 additional caves located in three autonomous regions of northern Spain: Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country.

Japanese Paleolithic

The Japanese Paleolithic period (旧石器時代, kyūsekki jidai) is the period of human inhabitation in Japan predating the development of pottery, generally before 10,000 BC. The starting dates commonly given to this period are from around 40,000 BC; although any date of human presence before 35,000 BC is controversial, with artifacts supporting a pre-35,000 BC human presence on the archipelago being of questionable authenticity. The period extended to the beginning of the Mesolithic Jōmon period, or around 14,000 BC.The earliest human bones were discovered in the city of Hamamatsu in Shizuoka Prefecture, which were determined by Radiocarbon dating to date to around 14,000–18,000 years ago.

Lower Paleolithic

The Lower Paleolithic (or Lower Palaeolithic) is the earliest subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age. It spans the time from around 3.3 million years ago when the first evidence for stone tool production and use by hominins appears in the current archaeological record, until around 300,000 years ago, spanning the Oldowan ("mode 1") and Acheulean ("mode 2") lithics industries.

In African archaeology, the time period roughly corresponds to the Early Stone Age, the earliest finds dating back to 3.3 million years ago, with Lomekwian stone tool technology, spanning Mode 1 stone tool technology, which begins roughly 2.6 million years ago and ends between 400,000 and 250,000 years ago, with Mode 2 technology.The Middle Paleolithic followed the Lower Paleolithic and recorded the appearance of the more advanced prepared-core tool-making technologies such as the Mousterian. Whether the earliest control of fire by hominins dates to the Lower or to the Middle Paleolithic remains an open question.

Mesolithic

In Old World archaeology, Mesolithic (Greek: μέσος, mesos "middle"; λίθος, lithos "stone") is the period between the Upper Paleolithic and the Neolithic. The term Epipaleolithic is often used synonymously, especially for outside northern Europe, and for the corresponding period in the Levant and Caucasus. The Mesolithic has different time spans in different parts of Eurasia. It refers to the final period of hunter-gatherer cultures in Europe and Western Asia, between the end of the Last Glacial Maximum and the Neolithic Revolution. In Europe it spans roughly 15,000 to 5,000 BP; in Southwest Asia (the Epipalaeolithic Near East) roughly 20,000 to 8,000 BP. The term is less used of areas further east, and not at all beyond Eurasia and North Africa.

The type of culture associated with the Mesolithic varies between areas, but it is associated with a decline in the group hunting of large animals in favour of a broader hunter-gatherer way of life, and the development of more sophisticated and typically smaller lithic tools and weapons than the heavy chipped equivalents typical of the Paleolithic. Depending on the region, some use of pottery and textiles may be found in sites allocated to the Mesolithic, but generally indications of agriculture are taken as marking transition into the Neolithic. The more permanent settlements tend to be close to the sea or inland waters offering a good supply of food. Mesolithic societies are not seen as very complex, and burials are fairly simple; grandiose burial mounds are another mark of the Neolithic.

Middle Paleolithic

The Middle Paleolithic (or Middle Palaeolithic) 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 broadly spanned from 300,000 to 30,000 years ago. There are considerable dating differences between regions. The Middle Paleolithic was succeeded by the Upper Paleolithic subdivision which first began between 50,000 and 40,000 years ago. Pettit and White date the Early Middle Paleolithic in Great Britain to about 325,000 to 180,000 years ago (late Marine Isotope Stage 9 to late Marine Isotope Stage 7), and the Late Middle Paleolithic as about 60,000 to 35,000 years ago.According to the theory of the recent African origin of modern humans, anatomically modern humans began migrating out of Africa during the Middle Stone Age/Middle Paleolithic around 100,000 or 70,000 years ago and began to replace earlier pre-existent Homo species such as the Neanderthals and Homo erectus. However, recent discoveries of fossils originating from what is now Israel indicate that our species (Homo sapiens) lived outside of Africa 185,000 years ago; some 85,000 years earlier than previous evidence suggests.

Mousterian

The Mousterian (or Mode III) is a techno-complex (archaeological industry) of flint lithic tools associated primarily with the Neanderthals in Europe, and to a lesser extent the earliest anatomically modern humans in North Africa and West Asia. The Mousterian largely defines the latter part of the Middle Paleolithic, the middle of the West Eurasian Old Stone Age. It lasted roughly from 160,000 to 40,000 BP.

If its predecessor, known as Levallois or "Levallois-Mousterian" is included, the range is extended to as early as c. 300,000–200,000 BP. The main following period is the Aurignacian (c.43,000–28,000 BP) of Homo sapiens.

Paleolithic Europe

Paleolithic Europe, the Lower or Old Stone Age in Europe, encompasses the era from the arrival of the first archaic humans, about 1.4 million years ago until the beginning of the Mesolithic (also Epipaleolithic) around 10,000 years ago. This period thus covers over 99% of the total human presence on the European continent. The early arrival and disappearance of Homo erectus and Homo heidelbergensis, the appearance, complete evolution and eventual demise of Homo neanderthalensis and the immigration and successful settlement of Homo sapiens all have taken place during the European Paleolithic.

Paleolithic diet

The Paleolithic diet, Paleo diet, caveman diet, or stone-age diet is a modern fad diet requiring the sole or predominant eating of foods presumed to have been available to humans during the Paleolithic era.The digestive abilities of anatomically modern humans, however, are different from those of pre-H. s. sapiens humans, which has been used to criticize the diet's core premise. During the 2.6 million year-long Paleolithic era, the highly variable climate and worldwide spread of human populations meant that humans were, by necessity, nutritionally adaptable. Supporters of the diet mistakenly presuppose that human digestion has remained essentially unchanged over time.While there is wide variability in the way the paleo diet is interpreted, the diet typically includes vegetables, fruits, nuts, roots, and meat and typically excludes foods such as dairy products, grains, sugar, legumes, processed oils, salt, alcohol, or coffee. The diet is based on avoiding not just processed foods, but rather the foods that humans began eating after the Neolithic Revolution when humans transitioned from hunter-gatherer lifestyles to settled agriculture. The ideas behind the diet can be traced to Walter L. Voegtlin during the 1970s. In the 21st century, the paleo diet was popularized in the best-selling books of Loren Cordain.The paleo diet is promoted as a way of improving health. There is some evidence that following this diet may lead to improvements in terms of body composition and metabolic effects compared with the typical Western diet or compared with diets recommended by national nutritional guidelines. There is no good evidence that the diet helps with weight loss, other than through the normal mechanisms of calorie restriction. Following the paleo diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies such as an inadequate calcium intake, and side effects can include weakness, diarrhea, and headaches.

Paleolithic flutes

During regular archaeological excavations several flutes, that date to the European Upper Paleolithic have been discovered in caves in the Swabian Alb region of Germany. Dated and tested independently by two laboratories, in England and Germany, the artifacts are authentic products of the Homo sapiens Aurignacian archaeological culture, made in between 43,000 and 35,000 years ago. The flutes, made of bone and ivory represent the earliest known musical instruments and provide unmistakable evidence of prehistoric music. The flutes were found in the Caves with the oldest Ice Age art, where also the oldest known examples of figurative art were discovered. Music and sculpture as artistic expression have developed simultaneously among the first humans in Europe as the region is considered a key area in which various cultural innovations have developed. Experts say, besides recreation and religious ritual music might have helped to maintain larger social networks, a competitive advantage over the Neanderthals.

Paleolithic religion

Paleolithic religions are a set of spiritual beliefs thought to have appeared during the Paleolithic time period. Paleoanthropologists Andre Leroi-Gourhan and Annette Michelson believe Religious behaviour emerged by the Upper Paleolithic, before 30,000 years ago at the latest, but behavioral patterns such as burial rites that one might characterize as religious — or as ancestral to religious behaviour — reach back into the Middle Paleolithic, as early as 300,000 years ago, coinciding with the first appearance of Homo neanderthalensis and possibly Homo naledi.

There are suggested cases for the first appearance of religious or spiritual experience in the Lower Paleolithic (significantly earlier than 300,000 years ago, pre-Homo sapiens), but these remain controversial and have limited support.

Prehistory of Southeastern Europe

The prehistory of Southeastern Europe, defined roughly as the territory of the wider Balkan peninsula (including the territories of the modern countries of Albania, Croatia, Kosovo, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Romania, Bulgaria, and European Turkey) covers the period from the Upper Paleolithic, beginning with the presence of Homo sapiens in the area some 44,000 years ago, until the appearance of the first written records in Classical Antiquity, in Greece as early as the 8th century BC.

Human prehistory in Southeastern Europe is conventionally divided into smaller periods, such as Upper Paleolithic, Holocene Mesolithic/Epipaleolithic, Neolithic Revolution, expansion of Proto-Indo-Europeans, and Protohistory. The changes between these are gradual. For example, depending on interpretation, protohistory might or might not include Bronze Age Greece (2800–1200 BC), Minoan, Mycenaean, Thracian and Venetic cultures. By one interpretation of the historiography criterion, Southeastern Europe enters protohistory only with Homer (See also Historicity of the Iliad, and Geography of the Odyssey). At any rate, the period ends before Herodotus in the 5th century BC.

South Asian Stone Age

The South Asian Stone Age covers the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic periods in South Asia. Evidence for the most ancient anatomically modern Homo sapiens in South Asia has been found in the cave sites of Cudappah of India, Batadombalena and Belilena in Sri Lanka. In Mehrgarh, in what is today western Pakistan, the Neolithic began c. 7000 BCE and lasted until 3300 BCE and the first beginnings of the Bronze Age. In South India, the Mesolithic lasted until 3000 BCE, and the Neolithic until 1400 BCE, followed by a Megalithic transitional period mostly skipping the Bronze Age. The Iron Age began roughly simultaneously in North and South India, around c. 1200 to 1000 BCE (Painted Grey Ware culture, Hallur).

Stone Age

The Stone Age was a broad prehistoric period during which stone was widely used to make implements with an edge, a point, or a percussion surface. The period lasted roughly 3.4 million years and ended between 8700 BCE and 2000 BCE with the advent of metalworking.Stone Age artifacts include tools used by modern humans and by their predecessor species in the genus Homo, and possibly by the earlier partly contemporaneous genera Australopithecus and Paranthropus. Bone tools were used during this period as well but are rarely preserved in the archaeological record. The Stone Age is further subdivided by the types of stone tools in use.

The Stone Age is the first period in the three-age system of archaeology, which divides human technological prehistory into three periods:

The Stone Age

The Bronze Age

The Iron Age

Upper Paleolithic

The Upper Paleolithic (or Upper Palaeolithic, Late Stone Age) is the third and last subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age. Very broadly, it dates to between 50,000 and 10,000 years ago (the beginning of the Holocene), according to some theories coinciding with the appearance of behavioral modernity in early modern humans, until the advent of the Neolithic Revolution and agriculture.

Anatomically modern humans (i.e. Homo sapiens) are believed to have emerged out of Africa around 200,000 years ago, although these lifestyles changed very little from that of archaic humans of the Middle Paleolithic, until about 50,000 years ago, when there was a marked increase in the diversity of artefacts.

This period coincides with the expansion of modern humans from Africa throughout Asia and Eurasia, which contributed to the extinction of the Neanderthals.

The Upper Paleolithic has the earliest known evidence of organized settlements, in the form of campsites, some with storage pits. Artistic work blossomed, with cave painting, petroglyphs, carvings and engravings on bone or ivory. The first evidence of human fishing is also found, from artefacts in places such as Blombos cave in South Africa. More complex social groupings emerged, supported by more varied and reliable food sources and specialized tool types. This probably contributed to increasing group identification or ethnicity.The peopling of Australia most likely took place before c. 60 ka. Europe was peopled after c. 45 ka.

Anatomically modern humans are known to have expanded northward into Siberia as far as the 58th parallel by about 45 ka (Ust'-Ishim man).

The Upper Paleolithic is divided by the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), during about 25 to 15 ka. The peopling of the Americas occurred during this time, with East and Central Asia populations reaching the Bering land bridge after about 35 ka, and expanding into the Americas by about 15 ka.

In Western Eurasia, the Paleolithic eases into the so-called Epipaleolithic or Mesolithic from the end of the LGM, beginning 15 ka. The Holocene glacial retreat begins 11.7 ka (10th millennium BC), falling well into the Old World Epipaleolithic, and marking the beginning of the earliest forms of farming in the Fertile Crescent.

Venus figurines

A Venus figurine is any Upper Paleolithic statuette portraying a woman, with fewer sculptures depicting men or figures of uncertain sex, and those in relief or engraved on rock or stones are often discussed together. Most have been unearthed in Europe, but others have been found as far away as Siberia, extending their distribution across much of Eurasia, although with many gaps, such as the Mediterranean outside Italy.Most of them date from the Gravettian period (26,000–21,000 years ago), but examples exist as early as the Venus of Hohle Fels, which dates back at least 35,000 years to the Aurignacian, and as late as the Venus of Monruz, from about 11,000 years ago in the Magdalenian. 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. In total, some 144 such figurines are known; virtually all of modest size, between 3 cm and 40 cm or more in height. They are some of the earliest works of prehistoric art.

Most of them have small heads, wide hips, and legs that taper to a point. Various figurines exaggerate the abdomen, hips, breasts, thighs, or vulva, although many do not, and the concentration in popular accounts on those that do reflects modern preoccupations rather than the range of actual artefacts. In contrast, arms and feet are often absent, and the head is usually small and faceless. Depictions of hairstyles can be detailed, and especially in Siberian examples, clothing or tattoos may be indicated.The original cultural meaning and purpose of these artifacts is not known. It has frequently been suggested that they may have served a ritual or symbolic function. There are widely varying and speculative interpretations of their use or meaning: they have been seen as religious figures, as erotic art or sex aids, grandmother goddesses or as self-depictions by female artists.

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