Paleolithic (or Lower Palaeolithic) is the earliest
subdivision of the
Paleolithic or Old Stone Age. It spans the time
from around 3.3 million years ago when the first evidence for stone
tool production and use by hominins appears in the current
archaeological record, until around 300,000 years ago, spanning the
Oldowan ("mode 1") and
Acheulean ("mode 2") lithics industries.
In African archaeology, the time period roughly corresponds to the
Early Stone Age, the earliest finds dating back to 3.3 million years
ago, with Lomekwian stone tool technology, spanning Mode 1 stone tool
technology, which begins roughly 2.6 million years ago and ends
between 400,000 and 250,000 years ago, with Mode 2
Paleolithic followed the Lower
Paleolithic and recorded the
appearance of the more advanced prepared-core tool-making technologies
such as the Mousterian. Whether the earliest control of fire by
hominins dates to the Lower or to the Middle
Paleolithic remains an
3 Middle Pleistocene
4 Transition to the Middle Paleolithic
5 See also
7 External links
Further information: Gelasian,
Homo habilis, and Olduvai Gorge
Paleolithic began with the appearance of the oldest stone
tools in the world, roughly 3.3 million years ago in eastern Africa,
which were produced by an as-yet undetermined hominin. The Gelasian
(Lower Pleistocene), some 2.5 million years ago, saw the appearance of
Homo genus (
Homo habilis), possibly developing from
australopithecine forebears (such as Australopithecus garhi). These
early members of the
Homo genus produced primitive tools, summarized
Oldowan or Mode 1 horizon, which remained dominant for
nearly a million years, from about 2.5 to 1.7 million years ago. Homo
habilis is assumed to have lived primarily on scavenging, using tools
to cleave meat off carrion or to break bones to extract the marrow.
The move from the mostly frugivorous or omnivorous diet of hominin
Australopithecus to the carnivorous scavenging lifestyle of early Homo
has been explained by the climate changes in
East Africa associated
with the Quaternary glaciation. Decreasing oceanic evaporation
produced a drier climate and the expansion of the savannah at the
expense of forests. Reduced availability of fruits stimulated some
proto-australopithecines to search out new food sources found in the
drier savannah ecology.
Derek Bickerton (2009) has designated to this
period the move from simple animal communication systems found in all
great apes to the earliest form of symbolic communication systems
capable of displacement (referring to items not currently within
sensory perception) and motivated by the need to "recruit" group
members for scavenging large carcasses.
Homo erectus appeared by about 1.8 million years ago, via the
Calabrian (stage) and Homo
Homo erectus moved from scavenging to hunting, developing the
hunting-gathering lifestyle that would remain dominant throughout the
Paleolithic into the Mesolithic. The unlocking of the new niche of
hunting-gathering subsistence drove a number of further behavioral and
physiological changes leading to the appearance of Homo
heidelbergensis by some 600,000 years ago.
Homo erectus migrated out of Africa and dispersed throughout Eurasia.
Stone tools in
Malaysia have been dated to be 1.83 million years
Peking Man fossil, discovered in 1929, is roughly
700,000 years old.
In Europe, the
Olduwan tradition (known in Europe as Abbevillian)
split into two parallel traditions, the Clactonian, a flake tradition,
and the Acheulean, a hand-axe tradition. The
Levallois technique for
knapping flint developed during this time.
The carrier species from Africa to Europe was undoubtedly Homo
erectus. This type of human is more clearly linked to the flake
tradition, which spread across southern Europe through the
appear relatively densely in southeast Asia. Many
Mousterian finds in
Paleolithic have been knapped using a Levallois technique,
suggesting that Neanderthals evolved from
Homo erectus (or, perhaps,
Homo heidelbergensis; see below).
Monte Poggiolo, near Forlì, Italy, is the location of an Acheulian
littoral handaxe industry dating from 1.8 to 1.1 million years
Main article: Middle Pleistocene
Homo heidelbergensis and Archaic humans
The appearance of
Homo heidelbergensis about 600,000 years ago heralds
a number of other new varieties, such as
Homo rhodesiensis and Homo
cepranensis about 400,000 years ago.
Homo heidelbergensis is a
candidate for first developing an early form of symbolic language.
Whether control of fire and earliest burials date to this period or
only appear during the Middle
Paleolithic is an open question.
Also, in Europe, a type of human appeared that was intermediate
Homo erectus and
Homo sapiens, sometimes summarized under
Homo sapiens, typified by such fossils as those found at
Swanscombe, Steinheim, Tautavel, and
palaeohungaricus). The hand-axe tradition originates in the same
period. The intermediate may have been
Homo heidelbergensis, held
responsible for the manufacture of improved Mode 2
types, in Africa, after 600,000 years ago. Flakes and axes
coexisted in Europe, sometimes at the same site. The axe tradition,
however, spread to a different range in the east. It appears in Arabia
and India, but more importantly, it does not appear in southeast Asia.
Transition to the Middle Paleolithic
Homo rhodesiensis and Anatomically modern humans
From about 300,000 years ago, technology, social structures and
behaviour appear to grow more complex, with prepared-core technique
lithics, earliest instances of burial and hunting-gathering
Homo sapiens first appear about 200,000 years ago.
Control of fire
Control of fire by early humans
Lomekwi, site of the oldest tools discovered
^ a b c Harmand, Sonia; et al. (21 May 2015). "3.3-million-year-old
stone tools from
Lomekwi 3, West Turkana, Kenya". Nature. 521 (7552):
310–315. doi:10.1038/nature14464. PMID 25993961.
Stone Age Tools". What does it mean to be human?. Smithsonian
Institution. 2014-09-29. Retrieved 2014-09-30.
^ Barham, Lawrence; Mitchell, Peter (2008). The First Africans:
African Archaeology from the Earliest Toolmakers to Most Recent
Foragers. New York: Cambridge. p. 16.
^ "Lower Paleolithic". Dictionary com. Retrieved December 30,
^ Derek Bickerton, Adam's Tongue: How Humans Made Language, How
Language Made Humans, New York: Hill and Wang 2009.
^ Malaysian scientists find stone tools 'oldest in Southeast Asia'
^ ". Location of
Acheulian handaxes industries (Mode 2) and... - study
of Early and Lower Palaeolithic lithic industries. The most ancient
European prehistoric sites, dated from 1.8 to 1.1 Ma, have been
discovered in a variety of contexts: fl uvio- lacustrine (Dmanisi,
Georgia; Orce, Spain), littoral (Monte Poggiolo, Italy)".
researchgate. Retrieved December 28, 2016.
The First People and Culture at Indiana University Bloomington
New Stone Age
New World crops
Ard / plough
Mortar and pestle
Bow and arrow
Game drive system
Langdale axe industry
British megalith architecture
Nordic megalith architecture
Neolithic long house
Abri de la Madeleine
Alp pile dwellings
Wattle and daub
Megalithic architectural elements
Arts and culture
Art of the Upper Paleolithic
Art of the Middle Paleolithic
Stone Age art
Bradshaw rock paintings
Carved Stone Balls
Cup and ring mark
British Isles and Brittany
Mound Builders culture
Stone box grave
Unchambered long cairn
Origin of language
Divje Babe flute
Origin of religion
Spiritual drug use