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Transcript of STONE AGE
the stone age lasted nearly 3.4 million years years
The Stone Age is divided into three periods: the Paleolithic, the Mesolithic, and the Neolithic.
presentation made by
Catherine Distel and Jessica Gough
People in the Stone Age would make their own music... Using bones! They learnt how to carve bone flutes that have been found at archeological digs.
First was the Paleolithic, the 'old age'. Then, it was the Mesolithic, the 'middle age'. The final Stone Age period was the Neolithic, the (you guessed it!) 'new age'.
Sometimes, a certain place (like in Australia) would become stuck in time as it was so isolated it never received news of the huge discoveries that were taking place in Europe and Asia and fell behind while the rest of the world made technological advancements. When Austrlia was 'discovered' the Aboriginies had never seen anyhing like what the white people were using, as there technology was still in the Stone Age.
But not all places moved on at the same time...
The main important part of the Paleolithic is the use of carved, or 'knapped' stone sometimes called choppers. Even so, other materials were being used to create tools but because they were made out of organic magterials like wood and bones they weren't preserved all that well.
The anciet art of flint knapping is the way that the ancient humans made their stone tools. Making a reliable and strong flint tools wasn't as easy as it seemed and required different shaped bone axes to carefully carve the flint into the correct shape and size, carefully knocking a few flakes off every time.
Modern flint knapping
Early stone age people had not yet developed agricultural practices and still lived nomadically eating what they could whenever they could. Most of their diet consisted of meat but hey ad some variety with natural fruits and nuts.
Some things that they would eat:
- Small game like mice, rabbits and birds
- Reptiles like lizards, snakes, fish and turtles
- Larger game like elk and deer as well as occasional aurochs (a large bovine animal that only died out a few centuries ago).
- Wild fruits and nuts that they would come across during their travels.
Paleolithic people did NOT eat grains and bread as they had not yet developed agriculture and were still nomadic and roamed with the herds of animals.
As the paleolithic actually covers an immense span of time it's really hard to pin-point what exact people ate at exact times around the globe but you can give a generalised guess. For example, people in Australia wouldn't eat elk, deer, mammoth or auroch but they would eat giant wombats and kangaroos as well as wild fruit and insects. Likewise, the people in Europe would be eating that sort of thing as they would be stuck in the middle of an ice age where a kangaroo would stand no hope.
The Paleolithic actually lasts an immense span of time and covers a huge amount of human prehistory and goes all the way through the ice age and covers nearly the entire Stone Age. It goes from the time when the Homo habilis walked the earth with the very first primitive handaxes to when the Homo sapiens first appeared, exactly like us. That in total is about 2.6 million years but no sources agree exactly at what should be classified as the very beginning of the Stone Age.
Timespan of the Paleolithic
In the Paleolithic people didn't tend to settle down onto on place and make a permanent home and would usually just lie down on the ground and go to sleep. Later in the paleolithic people would begin to make temporary shelters that would be made from easily obtainable materials that would be commonly found and stay in that place until food ran out and then move on to a new location and repeat the process.
The most convenient shelter for a paleolithic family to settle in for a time would be the ready made cave. Of course, these can't be built but are already naturally formed so if there wasn't a cave, there just wasn't. The insides would be decorated with elaborate paintings of hands, people and beasts showing epic hunting scenes and murals of hands spanning the whole wall and sometimes ceiling.
A cave in Mongolia with Paleolithic fingerprints inside
Paintings found in the
cave of Lascaux, France, in 1940
Small tents and huts would also be constructed, but this was rare. Not many haveeen found. Those that were usually had a frame made from bones and would have been covered in animal hides. Once again, these were not permanent homes and were only temporary shelters.
A paleolithic mammoth bone shelter found in Ukraine.
Even so, most of the time early humans just slept in the open. The Homo sapiens was the only species of human that really bothered with finding or building shelter.
social structure, language and culture
Language is perhaps one of the most important things to develope in the paleolothic as it led to culture, religion and better organisation and a better way to pass down important knowledge. The first languages were basic and had little or no written form and if it did it was probably only for numbers or animals.
As stated before, language led to culture. Having names and fixed ideas for things and how they should work ment that it created a strong sense of being that all the time and that the way things were should always be a certain way. They would teach this way to their children and them to their children until it just became the way that things were. As people traveled across the globe, some of these rules were forgotten and new ones created until different ways of life existed all the way across the globe.
Early people would live in groups that were usualy anywhere between 25 and 100 members and later in the era groups became smaller and contained a few families. Occasionaly they would fight to settle disputes but mostly kept seperate.
Paleolithic people wore animal skins stitched together with animal sinew or plant fibres. this provided warm but mobile and tough clothing for the people living sucha harsh life style. They had not yet developed ways to make plant fibres into fabric though. Depending on the status of an individual feathers and bines would sometimes adorn the clothing.
We know that the Paleolithic people buried there dead and had some customs with ritual significance and perhaps had a belief in afterlife. Perhaps they had some sort of animal worship or similar religion, or maybe, like some religions today, they beleived that the spirits of their ancestors would guide them.
Paleolithic people carved and painted some things that were obviously not real (such as half-man-half-beast creatures) and some theories suggest that these were possibly gods that they painted on there walls to worship... But as this was all so long ago and all that we have as proof are artifacts, we can't know the exact details of any sort of ancient cult.
An idea of what paleolithic clothing may have looked like depended on the surrondings. People in Africa would have worn light weight, loose clothes and developed ways to make clothing out of plant fiber sooner as it was lighter then animal skin and people on Europe, where it was colder, had not as much need for it.
The Mesolithic is different to the Paleolithic in the way that it includes the technology for hunting, fishing, building and food gathering, such as the hafted axe, spear thrower and bow and arrow. Another imporant part of the Mesolithic is the gradual domestication of food plants to begin to grow some types of crop. Pottery techniques are created in this time and clay artifacts are more common in this period as well, with kilns and firing pits being found from this era. Finally, it wasn't just plants that were beginng the process of domestication but also dogs and wolves, which were starting to work with mankind.
timespan of the mesolithic
Depending on the place on the globe, the Mesolithic could have lasted anywhere from only few thousand years to nearly 15000 years. Even though the start and end dates vary geographically, it's always just that little bit of time that fits inbetween the end of the Paleolithic and the start of the Neolithic.
Mesolithic people are likely to have eaten more fish and a few wild grains, but apart from that their diet was practically the same as it had been in the Paleolithic. People ate what they could and most of the time it was only simple meals of what ever had been caught or gathered that day. Occasionaly, in the autum they would dry out berries and meat to keep with them as spare food for the winter, when fresh food was sparse.
In the Mesolithic people were beginning to settle down into more or less permanent homes and build lasting structure that can still have evidence found of today. A list of Meoslithic sites have been discovered, mostly in Europe. Many, many different styles of dwelling were being used in this time, it depended on the climate and how long you were going to stay there for to what sort of house you would build.
Star Carr is a ancient Mesolithic site that is the remains of a house next to what was once a lake in Nothumberland, England. Found at the site were a few 200 or so harpoon tips, a deer skull headress and some carpentry stone tools. These tools represented the frist known use of carpentry in England.
Social structure, language and culture
Meoslithic societies would trade and swap goods with other Mesolithic societies and sometimes Paleolithic ones. Small settlements began to develope near the sea or rivers and lakes and the people there develope there own traditions and customs for life, so that by this time different places around the world had very different rules and living ways. These settelers would not just work independently but may have also worked more as a group with each person doing what they were good at. Different languages had begun to appear and the different strains of basic languages had developed into languages very different to each other but still from the same basic speech. Written language had not yet developed though.
Around this time, some sorts of religion were definitly developing. We can tell by studying artifacts from the time and paintings depicting figures and beings that are different in some way and also found quite commonly. This would show that many or at least some know or think that there was a reason for these talismans, perhaps they beleived that the deity or symbol carved into the peice of bone or stone would protect them as long as they stayed in it's favour. Also, elaborate burials and certain materials in Mesolithic graves suggests that perhaps they beleived in an afterlife.
Around the Mesolithic plant fibres were beginning to be woven into clothes, mostly in hotter climates. For example, flax and cotton were being used as clothing fibres in South America and Africa where wearing furs would cause you to overheat. It's even possible that some basic dyes were being used in the Mesolithic to colour clothes. Bone needles have been discovered so it's likely that people sewed their clothes together using plant fibres and may have evn decorated them slightly usong embroidery. We can't know for certain as unless a body was preserved remarkably well, the clothes would've rotted away.
During the Neolithic, the final period of the Stone age, many advancements are made technologically. This begins with the domestication of plants and the rise of farming. There's also the complete domestication of sheep, goats, dogs and cows (not cats, they were domesticated far more recently...) and the invention of the plow, which makes farming easier and more practicle. Far more people were settling down into permanent homes and taking up farming as a way of life. On a seperate note, many structures were built for no obvious purpose exept possibly ritual significance, such as the famous Stonehenge. Communities are built and famous empires like the Egyptians, Aztecs and Incans spring from these small settlements. And finally... The wheel!
Timespan of the Neolithic
The Neolithic covered roughly 7000 years and is quite short compared to the massive Paleolithic, but so much is fitted into that short time. It starts and finsihes at different times around the globe and some places don't get there at all. Europe developes very quickly into the Bronze age but other places take longer.
Both round houses and long houses were common in this era, mostly made out of stone or wattle and daub with a tatched roof, or in hotter climates a flat one. Houses would usually be cramped and smokey, housing many people of different families with a central harth with an on going fire. These people had moved out of caves and tents long ago and had learnt to build strong and permanent house that would last for a long time. Some settlements were built partially underground so that they were warm in winter but cool in summer. This style of house was mostly found in hot climates like South America, Africa, India and Egypt. Larger settlements eventually grew into the first cities.
As more and more people settled down as farmers grain products such as bread were common. This gave people a much wider and more varied diet as they grew their own grain, fruit and vegtable as well as keeping their own animals for milk, eggs and of course meat. Fish and molluscs being kept in tanks for eating fresh wasn't that uncommon for seaside and riverside villages either. Some grains that were common crops are:
-maize (hot climates)
-lentils (hot climates)
Social structure, Language and culture
The biggest developement in this area now is the way that the Neolithic tribes lead themeselves. Each village would have a cheiftain to make their decisions rather then the head of each seperate family leading their small group nomadically. Languages are now well developed and very, very different to one another and are close to some modren languages now (It's still a long time before English developes though!) Daily routines and different trades have developed by this time and currency systems of bartering goods is widely used and some long distance trading occurs. Some instruments have also developed and it's likely that music is common now, instruments and singing.
Distinct religions and worship patterns develope during the Neolithic with huge monuments built for their gods. Original rudimentry earth worship of the Paleolithic made way other types of religion: worshiping the sky, the stars, sun and moon, animals, elements and even a pantheon of new gods. If you look at nearly any type of religion today you can spot where it sprung away from the basic belief that something governed our lives and that something was after death and thats why they buried the deceased.
Clothes would be carefully made for special occasions and sometimes adorned with seashells and feathers with decorative stitching but mostly practicle wool or cotton clothes for everyday work on the farm. Shoes would also be worn most of the time, made out of leather wrapped around the feet. Wool, plant materials and animal hide were all used to mke clothes in this era.
The end of the stone age
After the Neolithic people no longer needed to use stone to make their tools because someone, somewhere discovered how to smelt metal and make BRONZE tools, revelutionising daily life and alowing people to make new weapons, armor, decorations and a whole array of household and farming tools. The Bronze age had arrived!
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