EtymologyThe term "wikt:Paleolithic, Palaeolithic" was coined by archaeologist John Lubbock, 1st Baron Avebury, John Lubbock in 1865. It derives from Greek: wikt:παλαιός, παλαιός, ''palaios'', "old"; and wikt:λίθος, λίθος, ''lithos'', "stone", meaning "old age of the stone" or "Old Stone Age".
Paleogeography and climateThe Paleolithic coincides almost exactly with the 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, continents had continued to plate tectonics, drift 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, bringing a nearly complete end to South America's distinctive marsupial fauna. The formation of the isthmus had major consequences on global temperatures, because warm equatorial ocean currents were cut off, and the cold Arctic and Antarctic waters lowered temperatures in the now-isolated Atlantic Ocean. Most of Central America formed during the Pliocene to connect the continents of North and South America, allowing fauna from these continents to leave their native habitats and colonize new areas. Africa's collision with Asia created the Mediterranean, cutting off the remnants of the Tethys Ocean. During the , the modern continents were essentially at their present positions; the tectonic plates 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 sheets grew on Antarctica. The formation of an Arctic ice cap around 3 million years ago is signaled by an abrupt shift in oxygen isotope ratios and ice-rafted cobbles in the North Atlantic and North Pacific Ocean beds. Mid-latitude glacier, glaciation probably began before the end of the epoch. The global cooling that occurred during the Pliocene may have spurred on the disappearance of forests and the spread of grasslands and savannas. The which Clovis culture#Evidence of human habitation before Clovis, may have prevented early Paleo-Indians such as the Clovis culture from directly crossing Beringia to reach the Americas. According to Mark Lynas (through collected data), the Pleistocene's overall climate could be characterized as a continuous El Niño with trade winds in the south Pacific Ocean, Pacific weakening or heading east, warm air rising near Peru, warm water spreading from the west Pacific and the Indian Ocean to the east Pacific, and other El Niño markers. The Paleolithic is often held to finish at the end of the ice age (the end of the Pleistocene epoch), and Earth's climate became warmer. This may have caused or contributed to the extinction of the Pleistocene megafauna, although it is also possible that the late Quaternary extinction event, Pleistocene extinctions were (at least in part) caused by other factors such as disease and overhunting by humans. New research suggests that the extinction of the woolly mammoth 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 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 (Alaska), Saint Paul Island and 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).
Human way of lifeNearly all of our knowledge of Paleolithic human culture and way of life comes from archaeology and ethnography, ethnographic comparisons to modern hunter-gatherer cultures such as the !Kung people, !Kung San who live similarly to their Paleolithic predecessors. The economy of a typical Paleolithic society was a hunter-gatherer economy.pp. 9–13
DistributionAt the beginning of the Paleolithic, hominins were found primarily in eastern Africa, east of the Great Rift Valley. Most known hominin fossils dating earlier than one million years before present are found in this area, particularly in Kenya, Tanzania, and Ethiopia. By 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''. 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'', came to Europe from Africa and eventually evolved into ''Homo neanderthalensis'' (Neanderthals). In the Middle Paleolithic, Neanderthals were present in the region now occupied by Poland. Both ''Homo erectus'' and ''Homo neanderthalensis'' became extinct by the end of the Paleolithic. Descended from ''Homo sapiens'', the anatomically modern ''Homo sapiens sapiens'' emerged in eastern Africa 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 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:Lapa do Picareiro, pt), a cave in Portugal, date back between 41,000 and 38,000 years ago.
ToolsPaleolithic 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 materials 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 contained 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 useFire was used by the Lower Paleolithic hominins ''Homo erectus'' and ''Homo ergaster'' as early as 300,000 to 1.5 million years ago and possibly even earlier by the early Lower Paleolithic (Oldowan) hominin ''Homo habilis'' or by robust ''Australopithecines'' such as ''Paranthropus''. 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.
RaftThe 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 toolsBy around 200,000 BP, Middle Paleolithic stone tool manufacturing spawned a tool making technique known as the prepared-core technique, that was more elaborate than previous Acheulean techniques. 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
Other inventionsDuring the Upper Paleolithic, 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 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
Social organizationThe 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,Christopher Boehm (1999
Sculpture and paintingEarly 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'' 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, 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 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 paintings 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 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.
MusicThe 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 (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 ethnography, ethnographic record of contemporary hunter-gatherer shamanic and ritual practices.
Religion and beliefsAccording to James B. Harrod humankind first developed religion, religious and spirituality, spiritual beliefs during the Middle Paleolithic or Upper Paleolithic. 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
Diet and nutritionPaleolithic 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 . 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
See also* Abbassia Pluvial * Bontnewydd Palaeolithic site * Caveman * Japanese Paleolithic * Lascaux * Late Glacial Maximum * List of archaeological sites by continent and age#Palaeolithic * Luzia Woman * Mousterian Pluvial * Origins of society * Palaeoarchaeology * Paleolithic lifestyle * Prehistoric migration and settlement of the Americas from Asia, Settlement of the Americas * Turkana Boy