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The Paleolithic or Palaeolithic or Palæolithic (), also called the Old Stone Age (from Greek palaios - old, lithos - stone), is a period in
prehistory Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history Human history, or world history, is the narrative of Human, humanity's past. It is understood through archaeology, anthropology, genetics, and linguistics, ...
distinguished by the original development of
stone tool A stone tool is, in the most general sense, any tool made either partially or entirely out of Rock (geology), stone. Although stone tool-dependent societies and cultures still exist today, most stone tools are associated with prehistory, prehisto ...

stone tool
s that covers  99% of the period of human
technological prehistory Prehistoric technology is technology Technology ("science of craft", from Ancient Greek, Greek , ''techne'', "art, skill, cunning of hand"; and , ''wikt:-logia, -logia'') is the sum of Art techniques and materials, techniques, skills, Scientif ...
. It extends from the earliest known use of stone tools by
hominins The Hominini form a taxonomic tribe of the subfamily Homininae Homininae (), also called "African hominids" or "African apes", is a subfamily of Hominidae. It includes two tribes, with their extant as well as extinct species: 1) the tribe H ...

hominins
 3.3 million years ago, to the end of the
Pleistocene The Pleistocene ( , often referred to as the ''Ice Age'') is the geological epoch In chronology 222px, Joseph Scaliger's ''De emendatione temporum'' (1583) began the modern science of chronology Chronology (from Latin Latin (, or , ) ...
 11,650 cal BP. The Paleolithic Age in Europe preceded the
Mesolithic Age The Mesolithic (Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is appro ...
, 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 Band or BAND may refer to: Places *Bánd, a village in Hungary *Band, Iran, a village in Urmia County, West Azerbaijan Province, Iran *Band, Mureș, a commune in Romania *Band-e Majid Khan, a village in Bukan County, West Azerbaijan Province, Ira ...
and subsisted by gathering plants, fishing, and hunting or scavenging wild animals.pp. 6–12
/ref> The Paleolithic Age is characterized by the use of
stone tool A stone tool is, in the most general sense, any tool made either partially or entirely out of Rock (geology), stone. Although stone tool-dependent societies and cultures still exist today, most stone tools are associated with prehistory, prehisto ...

stone tool
s, although at the time humans also used wood and bone tools. Other organic commodities were adapted for use as tools, including
leather Leather is a strong, flexible and durable material obtained from the tanning Tanning may refer to: *Tanning (leather), treating animal skins to produce leather *Sun tanning, using the sun to darken pale skin **Indoor tanning, the use of arti ...

leather
and vegetable
fiber Fiber or fibre (from la, fibra, links=no) is a natural Nature, in the broadest sense, is the natural, physical, material world or universe The universe ( la, universus) is all of space and time and their contents, including ...

fiber
s; however, due to rapid decomposition, these have not survived to any great degree. About 50,000 years ago a marked increase in the diversity of artifacts occurred. In Africa, bone artifacts and the first
art Art is a diverse range of (products of) human activities Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of primates, characterized by bipedality, opposable thumbs, hairlessness, and intelligence allowing the use o ...

art
appear in the archaeological record. The first evidence of human
fishing Fishing is the activity of trying to catch fish Fish are Aquatic animal, aquatic, craniate, gill-bearing animals that lack Limb (anatomy), limbs with Digit (anatomy), digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, ...

fishing
is also noted, from artifacts in places such as Blombos cave in
South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the Southern Africa, southernmost country in Africa. With over Demographics of South Africa, 60 million people, it is the world's List of countries by population, 23rd-most ...

South Africa
. Archaeologists classify artifacts of the last 50,000 years into many different categories, such as
projectile point In North American archaeological terminology Archaeology or archeology is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. Archaeology is often considered a branch of socio-cultural anthropology, but archae ...
s, engraving tools, knife blades, and drilling and piercing tools. Humankind gradually evolved from early members of the genus ''
Homo ''Homo'' () is the that emerged in the (otherwise extinct) genus ' that encompasses the extant species ' (), plus several extinct species classified as either to or closely related to modern humans (depending on the species), most notably ' ...

Homo
''—such as ''Homo habilis'', who used simple stone tools—into
anatomically modern humans Early modern human (EMH) or anatomically modern human (AMH) are terms used to distinguish ''Homo sapiens Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread of , characterized by and large, complex brains. This has enabled ...
as well as
behaviourally modern humans Behavioral modernity is a suite of behavioral and cognitive Cognition () refers to "the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses". It encompasses many aspects of intellectu ...
by the
Upper Paleolithic The Upper Paleolithic (or Upper Palaeolithic) also called the is the third and last subdivision of the or Old . Very broadly, it dates to between 50,000 and years ago (the beginning of the ), according to some theories coinciding with the ...
.Human Evolution
. Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2007 Contributed by Richard B. Potts, B.A., Ph.D.
During the end of the Paleolithic Age, specifically the Middle or Upper Paleolithic Age, humans began to produce the earliest works of art and to engage in
religious Religion is a - of designated and practices, , s, s, , , , , or , that relates humanity to , , and elements; however, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religion. Different religions may or may not contain v ...
or spiritual behavior such as
burial Burial, also known as interment or inhumation, is a method of wherein a dead person or non-human animal is placed into the ground, sometimes with objects. This is usually accomplished by excavating a pit or trench, placing the deceased and ob ...

burial
and
ritual A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed according to a set sequence. Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions of a community, including a religious community. Rituals are characterized, ...

ritual
. Conditions during the Paleolithic Age went through a set of glacial and
interglacial period An interglacial period (or alternatively interglacial, interglaciation) is a geological interval of warmer global average temperature lasting thousands of years that separates consecutive glacial period A glacial period (alternatively glacial or ...
s in which the
climate Climate is the long-term pattern of weather Weather is the state of the atmosphere An atmosphere (from the greek words ἀτμός ''(atmos)'', meaning 'vapour', and σφαῖρα ''(sphaira)'', meaning 'ball' or 'sphere') is a la ...

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 In ecology, primary production is the synthesis of organic compounds from atmospheric or aqueous carbon dioxide. It principally occurs through the process of photosynthesis, which uses light as its source of energy, but it also occurs through ...
while avoiding dense forest-cover. By  BP, the first humans set foot in Australia. By  BP, humans lived at 61°N latitude in Europe. By  BP, Japan was reached, and by  BP humans were present in
Siberia Siberia (; rus, Сибирь, r=Sibir', p=sʲɪˈbʲirʲ, a=Ru-Сибирь.ogg) is an extensive geographical region spanning much of Northern Asia. Siberia has been Russian conquest of Siberia, part of modern Russia since the latter half of th ...

Siberia
, above the
Arctic Circle The Arctic Circle is one of the two s and the most northerly of the five major as shown on maps of . It marks the northernmost point at which the center of the sun is just visible on the and the southernmost point at which the center of the ...

Arctic Circle
. At the end of the Upper Paleolithic Age a group of humans crossed
Beringia Beringia is defined today as the land and maritime area bounded on the west by the Lena River in Russia; on the east by the Mackenzie River in Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its Provinces and territori ...
and quickly expanded throughout the Americas.


Etymology

The term "
Palaeolithic The Paleolithic or Palaeolithic or Palæolithic (), also called the Old Stone Age (from Greek wikt:παλαιός, palaios - old, wikt:λίθος, lithos - stone), is a period in prehistory distinguished by the original development of stone too ...
" was coined by archaeologist John Lubbock in 1865. It derives from Greek: παλαιός, ''palaios'', "old"; and λίθος, ''lithos'', "stone", meaning "old age of the stone" or "Old
Stone Age The Stone Age was a broad prehistoric Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history Human history, also known as world history, is the description of humanity's past. It is informed by archaeology ...

Stone Age
".


Paleogeography and climate

The Paleolithic coincides almost exactly with the
Pleistocene The Pleistocene ( , often referred to as the ''Ice Age'') is the geological epoch In chronology 222px, Joseph Scaliger's ''De emendatione temporum'' (1583) began the modern science of chronology Chronology (from Latin Latin (, or , ) ...
epoch of geologic time, which lasted from 2.6 million years ago to about 12,000 years ago. This epoch experienced important geographic and climatic changes that affected human societies. During the preceding
Pliocene The Pliocene ( ; also Pleiocene) epoch (geology), Epoch is the epoch in the geologic timescale that extends from 5.333 million to 2.58drift from possibly as far as from their present locations to positions only from their current location. South America became linked to North America through the
Isthmus of Panama The Isthmus of Panama ( es, Istmo de Panamá), also historically known as the Isthmus of Darien (), is the narrow strip of land that lies between the Caribbean Sea The Caribbean Sea ( es, Mar Caribe; french: Mer des Caraïbes; ht, Lamè Kara ...
, bringing a nearly complete end to South America's distinctive
marsupial Marsupials are any members of the mammal Mammals (from Latin language, Latin , 'breast') are a group of vertebrate animals constituting the class (biology), class Mammalia (), and characterized by the presence of mammary glands which in ...
fauna. The formation of the isthmus had major consequences on global temperatures, because warm
equator The Equator is a , about in circumference, that divides into the and hemispheres. It is an located at 0 degrees , halfway between the and poles. In , as applied in , the equator of a rotating (such as a ) is the parallel (circle of l ...

equator
ial ocean currents were cut off, and the cold Arctic and Antarctic waters lowered temperatures in the now-isolated Atlantic Ocean. Most of
Central America Central America ( es, América Central, , ''Centroamérica'' ) is a region of the Americas The Americas (also collectively called America) is a landmass comprising the totality of North North is one of the four compass points or ...

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. Africa's collision with Asia created the Mediterranean, cutting off the remnants of the
Tethys Ocean The Tethys Ocean ( el, Τηθύς ''Tēthús''), also called the Tethys Sea or the Neo-Tethys, was an ocean during much of the Era located between the ancient continents of and , before the opening of the and oceans during the Period. Etym ...
. During the
Pleistocene The Pleistocene ( , often referred to as the ''Ice Age'') is the geological epoch In chronology 222px, Joseph Scaliger's ''De emendatione temporum'' (1583) began the modern science of chronology Chronology (from Latin Latin (, or , ) ...
, the modern
continent A continent is any of several large landmass A landmass, or land mass, is a large region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of th ...

continent
s were essentially at their present positions; the
tectonic plate This is a list of tectonic plates on Earth's surface Earth is the third planet A planet is an astronomical body orbiting a star or Stellar evolution#Stellar remnants, stellar remnant that is massive enough to be Hydrostatic equilibriu ...
s on which they sit have probably moved at most from each other since the beginning of the period. Climates during the Pliocene became cooler and drier, and seasonal, similar to modern climates.
Ice sheet In , an ice sheet, also known as a continental glacier, is a mass of that covers surrounding terrain and is greater than . The only current ice sheets are in and ; during the at (LGM) the covered much of , the ice sheet covered and the c ...

Ice sheet
s grew on
Antarctica Antarctica ( or ) is 's southernmost . It contains the geographic and is situated in the region of the , almost entirely south of the , and is surrounded by the . At , it is the fifth-largest continent and nearly twice the size of . At 0.00 ...

Antarctica
. The formation of an Arctic ice cap around 3 million years ago is signaled by an abrupt shift in
oxygen Oxygen is the chemical element Image:Simple Periodic Table Chart-blocks.svg, 400px, Periodic table, The periodic table of the chemical elements In chemistry, an element is a pure substance consisting only of atoms that all have the same ...

oxygen
isotope Isotopes are two or more types of atoms that have the same atomic number (number of protons A proton is a subatomic particle, symbol or , with a positive electric charge Electric charge is the physical property of matter that causes it ...
ratios and ice-rafted cobbles in the North Atlantic and North
Pacific Ocean The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of Earth's five oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Southern Ocean (or, depending on definition, to Antarctica) in the south and is bounded by the continents o ...

Pacific Ocean
beds. Mid-latitude
glaciation A glacial period (alternatively glacial or glaciation) is an interval of time (thousands of years) within an ice age An ice age is a long period of reduction in the temperature of Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the on ...

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
grassland Grasslands are areas where the vegetation Vegetation is an assemblage of species and the they provide. It is a general term, without specific reference to particular , life forms, structure, extent, or any other specific or geographic ...

grassland
s and
savanna A savanna or savannah is a mixed woodland A woodland () is, in the broad sense, land covered with trees, or in a narrow sense, synonymous with wood (or in the U.S., the ' woods), a low-density forming open s with plenty of sunlight and li ...

savanna
s. The
Pleistocene The Pleistocene ( , often referred to as the ''Ice Age'') is the geological epoch In chronology 222px, Joseph Scaliger's ''De emendatione temporum'' (1583) began the modern science of chronology Chronology (from Latin Latin (, or , ) ...
climate was characterized by repeated glacial cycles during which
continental glacier In glaciology Lateral moraine on a glacier joining the Gorner Glacier, Zermatt">Gorner_Glacier.html" ;"title="moraine on a glacier joining the Gorner Glacier">moraine on a glacier joining the Gorner Glacier, Zermatt, Swiss Alps. The moraine is ...
s pushed to the 40th
parallel Parallel may refer to: Computing * Parallel algorithm In computer science Computer science deals with the theoretical foundations of information, algorithms and the architectures of its computation as well as practical techniques for their a ...
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 deep, resulting in temporary sea level drops of 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. The effects of glaciation were global.
Antarctica Antarctica ( or ) is 's southernmost . It contains the geographic and is situated in the region of the , almost entirely south of the , and is surrounded by the . At , it is the fifth-largest continent and nearly twice the size of . At 0.00 ...

Antarctica
was ice-bound throughout the Pleistocene and the preceding Pliocene. The
Andes The Andes, Andes Mountains or Andean Mountains ( es, Cordillera de los Andes) are the List of mountain ranges#Mountain ranges by length, longest continental mountain range in the world, forming a continuous highland along the western edge of Sou ...

Andes
were covered in the south by the
Patagonia Patagonia () refers to a geographical region that encompasses the southern end of South America South America is a continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convent ...

Patagonia
n ice cap. There were glaciers in New Zealand and
Tasmania Tasmania (), abbreviated as TAS, is an island An island (or isle) is an isolated piece of habitat that is surrounded by a dramatically different habitat, such as water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atol ...
. The now decaying glaciers of
Mount Kenya Mount Kenya is the highest mountain in Kenya and the Highest mountain peaks of Africa, second-highest in Africa, after Mount Kilimanjaro, Kilimanjaro. The highest peaks of the mountain are Batian (), Nelion () and Point Lenana (). Mount Kenya is ...

Mount Kenya
,
Mount Kilimanjaro Mount Kilimanjaro () is a dormant volcano A volcano is a rupture in the of a , such as , that allows hot , , and to escape from a below the surface. On Earth, volcanoes are most often found where are or , and most are found und ...

Mount Kilimanjaro
, and the
Ruwenzori Range The Ruwenzori, also spelled Rwenzori and Rwenjura, are a range Range may refer to: Geography * Range (geographic), a chain of hills or mountains; a somewhat linear, complex mountainous or hilly area (cordillera, sierra) ** Mountain range, a ...
in east and central Africa were larger. Glaciers existed in the mountains of
Ethiopia Ethiopia, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a landlocked country in the Horn of Africa. It shares borders with Eritrea and Djibouti to the north, Somaliland to the northeast, Somalia to the east, Kenya to the sout ...

Ethiopia
and to the west in the
Atlas mountains The Atlas Mountains ( ar, جِبَال ٱلْأَطْلَس, jibāl al-ʾaṭlas /ʒibaːl al atˤlas/, Tamazight The Berber languages, also known as the Amazigh languages (Berber name: , ; Neo-Tifinagh: ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ, Tuareg Tifin ...

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 Siberia (; rus, Сибирь, r=Sibir', p=sʲɪˈbʲirʲ, a=Ru-Сибирь.ogg) is an extensive geographical region spanning much of Northern Asia. Siberia has been Russian conquest of Siberia, part of modern Russia since the latter half of th ...

Siberia
and the Arctic shelf. The northern seas were frozen. During the late Upper Paleolithic (Latest Pleistocene)  BP, the
Beringia Beringia is defined today as the land and maritime area bounded on the west by the Lena River in Russia; on the east by the Mackenzie River in Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its Provinces and territori ...
land bridge between Asia and North America was blocked by ice, which may have prevented early
Paleo-Indian Paleo-Indians, Paleoindians or Paleo-Americans, were the first peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as First people, Aboriginal people, Native people, or autochthonous people, are culturally distinct ethnic groups who are native to a ...
s such as the
Clovis culture The Clovis culture is a prehistoric Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history Human history, also known as world history, is the description of humanity's past. It is informed by archaeology ...
from directly crossing
Beringia Beringia is defined today as the land and maritime area bounded on the west by the Lena River in Russia; on the east by the Mackenzie River in Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its Provinces and territori ...
to reach the Americas. According to
Mark Lynas Mark Lynas (born 1973) is a British author and journalist whose work is focused on environmentalism Environmentalism or environmental rights is a broad philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questio ...

Mark Lynas
(through collected data), the Pleistocene's overall climate could be characterized as a continuous
El Niño es, El Niño, translation=The Boy (; ) is the warm phase of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is an irregular periodic variation in winds and sea surface temperatures over the Tropics, tropical easte ...
with
trade winds The trade winds or easterlies are the permanent east-to-west prevailing winds that flow in the Earth's equatorial region. The trade winds blow mainly from the northeast in the Northern Hemisphere The Northern Hemisphere is the half of Ear ...
in the south
Pacific The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbour and support life. 29.2% of Earth's surface is land consisting of continents and islands. ...

Pacific
weakening or heading east, warm air rising near
Peru , , image_flag = Flag_of_Peru.svg , image_coat = Escudo_nacional_del_Perú.svg , other_symbol = Great Seal of the State , other_symbol_type = National seal , national_motto ...

Peru
, warm water spreading from the west Pacific and the
Indian Ocean The Indian Ocean is the third-largest of the world's five ocean The ocean (also the or the world ocean) is the body of that covers approximately 70.8% of the surface of and contains 97% of . Another definition is "any of the large ...

Indian Ocean
to the east Pacific, and other El Niño markers. 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 Pleistocene megafauna is the set of large animals that lived on Earth during the Pleistocene The Pleistocene ( , often referred to as the ''Ice Age'') is the geological Epoch (geology), epoch that lasted from about 2,580,000 to 11,700 years ago, ...
, although it is also possible that the late
Pleistocene extinctions The Quaternary Quaternary ( ) is the current and most recent of the three Period (geology), periods of the Cenozoic Era (geology), Era in the geologic time scale of the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS). It follows the Neogene Period ...
were (at least in part) caused by other factors such as disease and overhunting by humans. New research suggests that the extinction of the may have been caused by the combined effect of climatic change and human hunting. 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. The global warming that occurred during the end of the Pleistocene and the beginning of the
Holocene The Holocene ( ) is the current geological epoch In geochronology, an epoch is a subdivision of the geologic timescale that is longer than an age (geology), age but shorter than a period (geology), period. The current epoch is the Holocene E ...
may have made it easier for humans to reach mammoth habitats that were previously frozen and inaccessible. Small populations of woolly mammoths survived on isolated Arctic islands, Saint Paul Island and
Wrangel Island Wrangel Island ( rus, О́стров Вра́нгеля, r=Ostrov Vrangelya, p=ˈostrəf ˈvrangʲɪlʲə; ckt, Умӄиԓир, translit=Umqiḷir) is an island in the Arctic Ocean The Arctic Ocean is the smallest and shallowest of the ...

Wrangel Island
, until  BP and  BP respectively. The Wrangel Island population became extinct around the same time the island was settled by prehistoric humans. 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 The Aleutian Islands (; ; ale, Unangam Tanaa, literally "Land of the s", possibly from ''aliat'', "island"), also called the Aleut Islands or Aleutic Islands and known before 1867 as the Catherine Archipelago, are a chain of 14 large volcanic ...
).


Human way of life

Nearly all of our knowledge of Paleolithic human culture and way of life comes from
archaeology Archaeology or archeology is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis Analysis is the process of breaking a complexity, complex topic or Substance theory, substance into smaller parts in order to gain a better underst ...
and
ethnographic Ethnography (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is ap ...

ethnographic
comparisons to modern hunter-gatherer cultures such as the !Kung San who live similarly to their Paleolithic predecessors. The economy of a typical Paleolithic society was a
hunter-gatherer A hunter-gatherer is a human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of primates, characterized by bipedality, opposable thumbs, hairlessness, and intelligence allowing the use of culture, language and tools. T ...
economy.pp. 9–13
/ref> Humans hunted wild animals for meat and gathered food, firewood, and materials for their tools, clothes, or shelters. Human population density was very low, around only . This was most likely due to low body fat,
infanticide Infanticide (or infant homicide) is the intentional killing of infant 222x222px, Eight-month-old sororal twin sisters An infant (from the Latin word ''infans'', meaning 'unable to speak' or 'speechless') is the more formal or speciali ...

infanticide
, women regularly engaging in intense endurance exercise, late weaning of infants, and a
nomad A nomad ( frm, nomade "people without fixed habitation") is a member of a community without fixed habitation who regularly moves to and from the same areas. Such groups include hunter-gatherer A hunter-gatherer is a human Humans (''Homo ...

nomad
ic lifestyle. Like contemporary hunter-gatherers, Paleolithic humans enjoyed an abundance of leisure time unparalleled in both
Neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age The Stone Age was a broad prehistoric Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history Human history, also known as world history, is t ...
farming societies and modern industrial societies. At the end of the Paleolithic, specifically the Middle or Upper Paleolithic, humans began to produce works of art such as
cave painting Cave paintings are a type of parietal art In archaeology Archaeology or archeology is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. Archaeology is often considered a branch of socio-cultural anthropo ...

cave painting
s,
rock art In archaeology, rock art is human-made markings placed on natural surfaces, typically vertical stone surfaces. A high proportion of surviving historic and prehistoric rock art is found in caves or partly enclosed rock shelters; this type also ma ...
and
jewellery Jewellery or jewelry consists of decorative items worn for personal , such as es, , s, s, s, s, and s. Jewellery may be attached to the body or the clothes. From a western perspective, the term is restricted to durable , excluding flowers for ex ...

jewellery
and began to engage in religious behavior such as burials and rituals.


Distribution

At the beginning of the Paleolithic, hominins were found primarily in eastern Africa, east of the
Great Rift Valley The Great Rift Valley is a series of contiguous geographic trenches, approximately in total length, that runs from the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon Lebanon (), officially known as the Lebanese Republic,''Republic of Lebanon'' is the most co ...

Great Rift Valley
. Most known hominin fossils dating earlier than one million years before present are found in this area, particularly in
Kenya ) , national_anthem = "Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu "Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu" (, ) is the national anthem of Kenya. History "Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu"'s lyrics were originally written in Swahili language, Kiswahili, the national language of Kenya ...

Kenya
,
Tanzania Tanzania (; ), officially the United Republic of Tanzania ( sw, Jamhuri ya Muungano wa Tanzania), is a country in East Africa East Africa or Eastern Africa is the eastern subregion of the Africa Africa is the world's second-larges ...

Tanzania
, and
Ethiopia Ethiopia, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a landlocked country in the Horn of Africa. It shares borders with Eritrea and Djibouti to the north, Somaliland to the northeast, Somalia to the east, Kenya to the sout ...

Ethiopia
. By  BP, groups of hominins began leaving Africa and settling southern Europe and Asia. Southern Caucasus was occupied by  BP, and northern China was reached by  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  BP. East Asian fossils from this period are typically placed in the genus ''
Homo erectus ''Homo erectus'' (meaning "upright Body relative directions (also known as egocentric coordinates) are geometrical orientations relative to a body such as a human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread s ...

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  BP. Around 500,000 BP a group of early humans, frequently called ''
Homo heidelbergensis ''Homo heidelbergensis'' (also ''H. sapiens heidelbergensis'') is an extinct species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversit ...

Homo heidelbergensis
'', came to Europe from Africa and eventually evolved into ''Homo neanderthalensis'' (
Neanderthal Neanderthals (, also Neandertals, ''Homo neanderthalensis'' or ''Homo sapiens neanderthalensis'') are an extinct species In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, phys ...
s). 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 Human taxonomy is the classification of the human species Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of primates, characterized by bipedality, opposable thumbs, hairlessness, and intelligence allowing the use of ...
'' emerged in eastern Africa  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  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''. Hominin fossils not belonging either to ''Homo neanderthalensis'' or to ''Homo sapiens'' species, found in the
Altai Mountains The Altai Mountains (), also spelled Altay Mountains, are a mountain range A mountain range is a series of mountains ranged in a line and connected by high ground. A mountain system or mountain belt is a group of mountain ranges with simila ...

Altai Mountains
and Indonesia, were radiocarbon dated to  BP and  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. However, remains of thousands of butchered animals and tools made by Palaeolithic humans were found in Lapa do Picareiro ( pt), a cave in Portugal, dating back between 41,000 and 38,000 years ago.


Technology


Tools

Paleolithic humans made tools of stone, bone (primarily deer), and wood. 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 stone with good flaking qualities and chose appropriate sized stones for their needs to produce sharp-edged tools for cutting. The earliest Paleolithic stone tool industry, the Oldowan, began around 2.6 million years ago. It produced tools such as choppers, Burin (lithic flake), 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. 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. Lower Paleolithic humans used a variety of stone tools, including hand axes and Chopper (archaeology), 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 Scraper (archaeology), 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, Common chimpanzee, chimpanzees, have been observed to do in Senegal, Africa. Lower Paleolithic humans constructed shelters, such as the possible wood hut at Terra Amata (archaeological site), Terra Amata.


Fire use

Fire was used by the Lower Paleolithic hominins ''
Homo erectus ''Homo erectus'' (meaning "upright Body relative directions (also known as egocentric coordinates) are geometrical orientations relative to a body such as a human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread s ...

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''. However, the use of fire only became common in the societies of the following Middle Stone Age and Middle Paleolithic. Use of fire reduced mortality rates and provided protection against predators. Early hominins may have begun to cook their food as early as the Lower Paleolithic ( million years ago) or at the latest in the early Middle Paleolithic ( years ago). Some scientists have hypothesized that hominins began cooking food to defrost frozen meat, which would help ensure their survival in cold regions. Archaeologists cite morphological shifts in cranial anatomy as evidence for emergence of cooking and "food processing" technologies. These morphological changes include decreases in "molar (tooth), molar" and jaw size, thinner tooth "Tooth enamel, enamel", and decrease in gut volume During much of the
Pleistocene The Pleistocene ( , often referred to as the ''Ice Age'') is the geological epoch In chronology 222px, Joseph Scaliger's ''De emendatione temporum'' (1583) began the modern science of chronology Chronology (from Latin Latin (, or , ) ...
epoch, our ancestors relied on simple food processing techniques such as roasting The Upper Palaeolithic saw the emergence of boiling, an advance in food processing technology which rendered plant foods more digestible, decreased their toxicity, and maximised their nutritional value Thermally altered rock (heated stones) are easily identifiable in the archaeological record. Stone-boiling and pit-baking were common techniques which involved heating large pebbles then transferring the hot stones into a perishable container to heat the water This technology is typified in the Middle Palaeolithic example of the Abri Pataud hearths


Raft

The Lower Paleolithic ''Homo erectus'' possibly invented rafts ( 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. 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. Supplementary evidence from Neanderthal and modern human sites located around the Mediterranean Sea, such as Coa de sa Multa ( 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.


Advanced tools

By around 200,000 BP, Middle Paleolithic
stone tool A stone tool is, in the most general sense, any tool made either partially or entirely out of Rock (geology), stone. Although stone tool-dependent societies and cultures still exist today, most stone tools are associated with prehistory, prehisto ...

stone tool
manufacturing spawned a tool making technique known as the prepared-core technique, that was more elaborate than previous Acheulean techniques. This technique increased efficiency by allowing the creation of more controlled and consistent Lithic flake, flakes. 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. Harpoons were invented and used for the first time during the late Middle Paleolithic ( BP); the invention of these devices brought fish into the human diets, which provided a hedge against starvation and a more abundant food supply."Human Evolution," Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2007
Contributed by Richard B. Potts, B.A., Ph.D.
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. and the Neanderthals in particular may have likewise hunted with projectile weapons. 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.


Other inventions

During the
Upper Paleolithic The Upper Paleolithic (or Upper Palaeolithic) also called the is the third and last subdivision of the or Old . Very broadly, it dates to between 50,000 and years ago (the beginning of the ), according to some theories coinciding with the ...
, further inventions were made, such as the net (device), net ( or  BP) bolas, the spear thrower ( BP), the bow and arrow ( or  BP) and the oldest example of ceramic art, the Venus of Dolní Věstonice ( BP). Kilu Cave at Buka Island, Buku island, Solomon Islands (archipelago), Solomon Islands, demonstrates navigation of some 60 km of open ocean at 30,000 BCcal. Early dogs were domesticated sometime between 30,000 and 14,000 BP, presumably to aid in hunting.John Lloyd (producer), Lloyd, J & John Mitchinson (researcher), Mitchinson, J: "The Book of General Ignorance". Faber & Faber, 2006. However, the earliest instances of successful domestication of dogs may be much more ancient than this. Evidence from canidae, 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. Archaeological evidence from the Dordogne region of France demonstrates that members of the European early
Upper Paleolithic The Upper Paleolithic (or Upper Palaeolithic) also called the is the third and last subdivision of the or Old . Very broadly, it dates to between 50,000 and years ago (the beginning of the ), according to some theories coinciding with the ...
culture known as the Aurignacian used calendars ( 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. Upper Paleolithic cultures were probably able to time the migration of game animals such as wild horses and deer."Stone Age," Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2007
Contributed by Kathy Schick, B.A., M.A., Ph.D. and Nicholas Toth, B.A., M.A., Ph.D.
This ability allowed humans to become efficient hunters and to exploit a wide variety of game animals. Recent research indicates that the Neanderthals timed their hunts and the migrations of game animals long before the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic.


Social organization

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. 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; 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. Similarly, scientists disagree whether Lower Paleolithic humans were largely monogamous or polygynous. 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. 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 Band or BAND may refer to: Places *Bánd, a village in Hungary *Band, Iran, a village in Urmia County, West Azerbaijan Province, Iran *Band, Mureș, a commune in Romania *Band-e Majid Khan, a village in Bukan County, West Azerbaijan Province, Ira ...
,Christopher Boehm (1999
"Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior" pp. 198–208
Harvard University Press
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. 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. 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. By the end of the Paleolithic era ( 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

/ref>) and raw materials, as early as 120,000 years ago in Middle Paleolithic. 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). Like in modern hunter-gatherer societies, individuals in Paleolithic societies may have been subordinate to the band as a whole.pp. 9–13p. 70
/ref> Both Neanderthals and modern humans took care of the elderly members of their societies during the Middle and Upper Paleolithic. Some sources claim that most Middle and Upper Paleolithic societies were possibly fundamentally egalitarianism, egalitarianChristopher Boehm (1999
"Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior" p. 198
Harvard University Press
and may have rarely or never engaged in organized violence between groups (i.e. war).pp. 420-22
/ref>p. 123
/ref> 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. Some argue that there was no formal leadership during the Middle and Upper Paleolithic. Like contemporary egalitarian hunter-gatherers such as the Mbuti#Political structure, Mbuti pygmies, societies may have made decisions by communal consensus decision making rather than by appointing permanent rulers such as chiefs and monarchs. 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 Marxism, Marxist concept of primitive communism. 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.Christopher Boehm (1999
"Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior" p. 192
Harvard university press
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. 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. 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. 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. 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 The Upper Paleolithic (or Upper Palaeolithic) also called the is the third and last subdivision of the or Old . Very broadly, it dates to between 50,000 and years ago (the beginning of the ), according to some theories coinciding with the ...
and was invented relatively recently in human pre-history. Sexual division of labor may have been developed to allow humans to acquire food and other resources more efficiently. Possibly there was approximate parity between men and women during the Middle and Upper Paleolithic, and that period may have been the most gender equality, gender-equal time in human history.Museum of Antiquites web site
. Retrieved February 13, 2008.
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. The earliest known Paleolithic shaman ( BP) was female.Tedlock, Barbara. 2005. The Woman in the Shaman's Body: Reclaiming the Feminine in Religion and Medicine. New York: Bantam. 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. Like most contemporary hunter-gatherer societies, Paleolithic and the Mesolithic groups probably followed mostly matrilineal and ambilineality, ambilineal descent patterns; patrilineal descent patterns were probably rarer than in the Neolithic.


Sculpture and painting

Early examples of artistic expression, such as the Venus of Tan-Tan and the patterns found on elephant bones from Bilzingsleben (Paleolithic site), Bilzingsleben in Thuringia, may have been produced by Acheulean tool users such as ''
Homo erectus ''Homo erectus'' (meaning "upright Body relative directions (also known as egocentric coordinates) are geometrical orientations relative to a body such as a human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread s ...

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, beads,
rock art In archaeology, rock art is human-made markings placed on natural surfaces, typically vertical stone surfaces. A high proportion of surviving historic and prehistoric rock art is found in caves or partly enclosed rock shelters; this type also ma ...
, and ochre used as body paint and perhaps in ritual. Undisputed evidence of art only becomes common in the Upper Paleolithic. 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. 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. Nevertheless, it is also possible that the ochre traces found at Lower Paleolithic sites is naturally occurring.
Upper Paleolithic The Upper Paleolithic (or Upper Palaeolithic) also called the is the third and last subdivision of the or Old . Very broadly, it dates to between 50,000 and years ago (the beginning of the ), according to some theories coinciding with the ...
humans produced works of art such as cave paintings, Venus figurines, animal carvings, and rock paintings. 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. 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. 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 figures and the remoteness of the caves are reminiscent of modern hunter-gatherer shamanistic practices. 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 The Upper Paleolithic (or Upper Palaeolithic) also called the is the third and last subdivision of the or Old . Very broadly, it dates to between 50,000 and years ago (the beginning of the ), according to some theories coinciding with the ...
ethnic groups. Venus figurines have evoked similar controversy. Archaeologists and anthropologists have described the figurines as representations of goddesses, pornography, pornographic imagery, apotropaic amulets used for sympathetic magic, and even as self-portraits of women themselves. R. Dale GuthrieR. Dale Guthrie, ''The Nature of Paleolithic Art''. University of Chicago Press, 2006.
Preface
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''. 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 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. 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. This hypothesis is generally less accepted than the previous hypothesis, but nonetheless provides a possible alternative.
Upper Paleolithic The Upper Paleolithic (or Upper Palaeolithic) also called the is the third and last subdivision of the or Old . Very broadly, it dates to between 50,000 and years ago (the beginning of the ), according to some theories coinciding with the ...
(and possibly Middle Paleolithic)Nelson, D.E., ''Radiocarbon dating of bone and charcoal from Divje babe I cave'', cited by Morley, p. 47 humans used flute-like bone pipes as musical instruments,Bahn, Paul (1996) "The atlas of world archeology" Copyright 2000 The Brown Reference Group PLC 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 Ethnography (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is ap ...

ethnographic
record of contemporary hunter-gatherer shamanic and ritual practices.


Religion and beliefs

According to James B. Harrod humankind first developed religion, religious and spirituality, spiritual beliefs during the Middle Paleolithic or
Upper Paleolithic The Upper Paleolithic (or Upper Palaeolithic) also called the is the third and last subdivision of the or Old . Very broadly, it dates to between 50,000 and years ago (the beginning of the ), according to some theories coinciding with the ...
. 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 or Early Lower Paleolithic (Oldowan) societies.pp. 98–109
/ref> 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. Middle Paleolithic humans' use of burials at sites such as Krapina, Croatia ( BP) and Qafzeh, Israel ( 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". Cut marks on Neanderthal bones from various sites, such as Combe-Grenal and Abri Moula in France, suggest that the Neanderthal#Cannibalism or ritual defleshing?, Neanderthals—like some contemporary human cultures—may have practiced excarnation, ritual defleshing for (presumably) religious reasons. According to recent archaeological findings from ''Homo heidelbergensis'' sites in Archaeological Site of Atapuerca, 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 (religious practice), cult was widespread among Middle Paleolithic
Neanderthal Neanderthals (, also Neandertals, ''Homo neanderthalensis'' or ''Homo sapiens neanderthalensis'') are an extinct species In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, phys ...
s. A claim that evidence was found for Middle Paleolithic animal worship  BCE originates from the Tsodilo Hills in the African Kalahari desert has been denied by the original investigators of the site. Animal cults in the Upper Paleolithic, such as the bear cult, may have had their origins in these hypothetical Middle Paleolithic animal cults. Animal worship during the Upper Paleolithic was intertwined with hunting rites. 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 shot with arrows, finished off by a shot or thrust in the lungs, and ritually worshipped near a clay bear statue covered by a bear fur with the skull and the body of the bear buried separately. 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. The existence of anthropomorphic images and half-human, half-animal images in the Upper Paleolithic may further indicate that
Upper Paleolithic The Upper Paleolithic (or Upper Palaeolithic) also called the is the third and last subdivision of the or Old . Very broadly, it dates to between 50,000 and years ago (the beginning of the ), according to some theories coinciding with the ...
humans were the first people to believe in a Polytheism, pantheon of gods or supernatural beings, though such images may instead indicate shamanistic practices similar to those of contemporary tribal societies. 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 The Upper Paleolithic (or Upper Palaeolithic) also called the is the third and last subdivision of the or Old . Very broadly, it dates to between 50,000 and years ago (the beginning of the ), according to some theories coinciding with the ...
era ( BP) in what is now the Czech Republic. 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. Religion was possibly Apotropaic magic, apotropaic; specifically, it may have involved sympathetic magic. 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. The Upper Paleolithic Venus figurines have sometimes been explained as depictions of an earth goddess similar to Gaia (mythology), Gaia, or as representations of a goddess who is the ruler or mother of the animals. James Harrod has described them as representative of female (and male) shamanistic spiritual transformation processes.


Diet and nutrition

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. However, there is little direct evidence of the relative proportions of plant and animal foods. 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, or tools necessary to engage in extensive
fishing Fishing is the activity of trying to catch fish Fish are Aquatic animal, aquatic, craniate, gill-bearing animals that lack Limb (anatomy), limbs with Digit (anatomy), digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, ...

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, Kenya, 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. This view is supported by studies of higher apes, particularly Common chimpanzee, 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. 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 diet, plant-based, with the remaining 5% filled with insects, eggs, and baby animals. In some ecosystems, however, chimpanzees are predatory, forming parties to hunt monkeys. 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. 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, while others were believed to have a primarily plant-based diet. Most, if not all, are believed to have been opportunistic omnivores. One hypothesis is that carbohydrate tubers (plant underground storage organs) may have been eaten in high amounts by pre-agricultural humans. It is thought that the Paleolithic diet included as much as per day of fruit and vegetables. 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  BP).) 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. 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 Pinniped, seals and Taurotragus, elands as far as  BP. On the other hand, African Buffalo, 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. Paleolithic peoples suffered less famine and malnutrition than the Neolithic farming tribes that followed them.p. 2
/ref> 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. Many of the famines experienced by Neolithic (and some modern) farmers were caused or amplified by their dependence on a small number of crops. It is thought that wild foods can have a significantly different nutritional profile than cultivated foods. 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. 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. 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, and because the average lifespan was shorter than the age of common onset of these conditions. 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. There is evidence suggesting that Paleolithic societies were gathering wild cereals for food use at least as early as 30,000 years ago. However, seeds—such as grains and beans—were rarely eaten and never in large quantities on a daily basis. 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. Paleolithic humans consumed animal organ (anatomy), 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. In particular, bananas and tubers may have been cultivated as early as 25,000 BP in southeast Asia. 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. Humans also probably consumed hallucinogenic plants during the Paleolithic. 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. In February 2019, scientists reported evidence, based on
isotope Isotopes are two or more types of atoms that have the same atomic number (number of protons A proton is a subatomic particle, symbol or , with a positive electric charge Electric charge is the physical property of matter that causes it ...
studies, that at least some Neanderthals may have eaten meat. 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, South Africa around 164,000 BP. Although fishing only became common during the
Upper Paleolithic The Upper Paleolithic (or Upper Palaeolithic) also called the is the third and last subdivision of the or Old . Very broadly, it dates to between 50,000 and years ago (the beginning of the ), according to some theories coinciding with the ...
, 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. For example, the Middle Paleolithic ''Homo sapiens'' in the region now occupied by the Democratic Republic of the Congo hunted large -long catfish with specialized barbed fishing points as early as 90,000 years ago. The invention of fishing allowed some Upper Paleolithic and later hunter-gatherer societies to become sedentary or semi-nomadic, which altered their social structures. Example societies are the Lepenski Vir as well as some contemporary hunter-gatherers, such as the Tlingit people, Tlingit. In some instances (at least the Tlingit), they developed social stratification, slavery, and complex social structures such as chiefdoms. 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. Cannibalism in the Lower and Middle Paleolithic may have occurred because of food shortages. 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. 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. 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.


See also

* Abbassia Pluvial * Bontnewydd Palaeolithic site * Caveman * Japanese Paleolithic * Lascaux * Last Glacial Maximum * List of archaeological sites by continent and age#Palaeolithic * Luzia Woman * Mousterian Pluvial * Origins of society * Palaeoarchaeology * Settlement of the Americas * Turkana Boy


References


External links


Human Timeline (Interactive)
– Smithsonian Institution, Smithsonian, National Museum of Natural History (August 2016).
Donsmaps: a vast repository of Paleolithic resourcesInteractive Timeline Simile/Timemap index of Eurasian sites
{{Authority control Paleolithic, Pleistocene Historical eras