In archaeology, the MESOLITHIC (Greek : μέσος, mesos "middle";
λίθος, lithos "stone") is the period between
Neolithic . The term "
Epipaleolithic " is often used for areas outside
northern Europe , but was also the preferred synonym used by French
archaeologists until the 1960s.
Mesolithic has different time spans in different parts of
It was originally post-
Pleistocene , pre-agricultural material in
northwest Europe about 10,000 to 5000 BCE, but material from the
Levant (about 20,000 to 9500 BCE) is also labelled Mesolithic.
* 1 Terminology –
Mesolithic or Epipaleolithic?
* 2 History of the concept
* 3 Characteristics
* 3.1 The
* 3.2 Europe
* 3.3 Ceramic
* 5 List of
* 6 See also
* 7 Notes
* 8 Further reading
* 9 External links
TERMINOLOGY – MESOLITHIC OR EPIPALEOLITHIC?
Mesolithic microliths Human timeline view • discuss •
edit -10 — – -9 — – -8 — – -7 — – -6 — – -5 —
– -4 — – -3 — – -2 — – -1 — – 0 — Human-like
Australopithecus HOMO HABILIS HOMO ERECTUS
NEANDERTHAL HOMO SAPIENS ← Earlier apes
← Possibly bipedal ← Earliest bipedal ←
Earliest stone tools ← Earliest exit
from Africa ← Earliest fire use ← Earliest cooking
← Earliest clothes ← Modern humans
Axis scale : millions of years .
Also see: Life timeline and Nature timeline
The term "Mesolithic" is in competition with another term,
Epipaleolithic ", which means the "final Upper Palaeolithic
industries occurring at the end of the final glaciation which appear
to merge technologically into the Mesolithic".
In the archaeology of
Northern Europe , for example for
archaeological sites in Great Britain, Germany, Scandinavia, Ukraine,
and Russia, the term "Mesolithic" is almost always used. In the
archaeology of other areas, the term "Epipaleolithic" may be preferred
by most authors, or there may be divergences between authors over
which term to use or what meaning to assign to each. In the New World,
neither term is used (except provisionally in the Arctic).
* Some authors use the term "Epipaleolithic" for those cultures that
are late developments of hunter-gatherer traditions but not in
transition toward agriculture , reserving the term "Mesolithic" for
those cultures, like the
Natufian culture , that are transitional
between hunter-gatherer and agricultural practices.
* Other authors use the term
Mesolithic for a variety of Late
Paleolithic cultures subsequent to the end of the last glacial period
whether they are transitional towards agriculture or not.
In the archaeology of sub-Saharan Africa , Lower
replaced by "Early Stone Age", Middle
Paleolithic is replaced by
"Middle Stone Age" and Upper
Paleolithic by "Later Stone Age"
according to the terminology introduced by John Hilary Goodman and
Clarence van Riet Lowe of South Africa in the early 20th century.
Therefore, care must be taken in translating "Mesolithic" as "Middle
Stone Age", as the latter term has an unrelated technical meaning in
the context of African archaeology.
HISTORY OF THE CONCEPT
The three -lithics are subdivisions of the
Stone Age in the three-age
system developed since classical times and given a modern
archaeological meaning by
Christian Jürgensen Thomsen
Christian Jürgensen Thomsen , a Danish
archaeologist, in the early 19th century. Subdivisions of "earlier"
and "later" were added to the
Stone Age by Thomsen and especially his
junior colleague and employee
Jens Jacob Asmussen Worsaae . John
Lubbock kept these divisions in his work Pre-historic Times in 1865
and introduced the terms
Paleolithic ("Old Stone Age") and Neolithic
("New Stone Age") for them. He saw no need for an intermediate
When Hodder Westropp introduced the
Mesolithic in 1866, as a
technology intermediate between
Paleolithic and Neolithic, a storm of
controversy immediately arose around it. A British school led by John
Evans denied any need for an intermediate. The ages blended together
like the colors of a rainbow, he said. A European school led by Louis
Laurent Gabriel de Mortillet asserted that there was a gap between the
earlier and later. Edouard Piette claimed to have filled the gap with
his discovery of the
Knut Stjerna offered an
alternative in the Epipaleolithic, a continuation of the use of
Paleolithic technology. By the time of
Vere Gordon Childe 's work, The
Dawn of Europe (1947), which affirms the Mesolithic, sufficient data
had been collected to determine that the
Mesolithic was in fact
necessary and was indeed a transition and intermediary between the
Paleolithic and the Neolithic.
The start and end dates of the
Mesolithic vary by geographical
region. Childe's view prevails that the term generally covers the
period between the end of the
Pleistocene and the start of the
Neolithic. The times of these events vary greatly; moreover, the
various Mesolithics within the span might be as short as roughly a
thousand years or as long as roughly 15,000 years depending on the
circumstances. If the
Mesolithic is more similar to the
is called the Epipaleolithic.
Paleolithic was an age of purely hunting and gathering while in
Neolithic domestication of plants and animals had occurred. Some
Mesolithic peoples continued with intensive hunting. Others were
practising the initial stages of domestication (see
The type of stone toolkit remains one of the most diagnostic
Mesolithic used a microlithic technology - composite
devices manufactured with Mode V chipped stone tools (microliths ),
Paleolithic had utilized Modes I–IV. In some areas,
however, such as Ireland, parts of Portugal, the Isle of Man and the
Tyrrhenian Islands, a macrolithic technology was used in the
Mesolithic. In the Neolithic, the microlithic technology was replaced
by a macrolithic technology, with an increased use of polished stone
tools such as stone axes.
The first period, known as MESOLITHIC 1 (Kebarian culture ; from
20,000–18,000 BCE until 12,150 BCE), followed the
Paleolithic periods throughout the
Levant . By the end
of the Aurignacian, gradual changes took place in stone industries.
Small stone tools called microliths and retouched bladelets can be
found for the first time. The microliths of this culture period differ
greatly from the
Aurignacian artifacts. This period is more properly
By 20,000–18,000 BCE the climate and environment had changed,
starting a period of transition. The
Levant became more arid and the
forest vegetation retreated, to be replaced by steppe. The cool and
dry period ended at the beginning of
Mesolithic 1. The
hunter-gatherers of the
Aurignacian would have had to modify their way
of living and their pattern of settlement to adapt to the changing
conditions. The crystallization of these new patterns resulted in
Mesolithic 1. New types of settlements and new stone industries
The inhabitants of a small
Mesolithic 1 site in the
little more than their chipped stone tools behind. The industry was of
small tools made of bladelets struck off single-platform cores.
Besides bladelets, burins and end-scrapers were found. A few bone
tools and some ground stone have also been found. These so-called
Mesolithic sites of Asia are far less numerous than those of the
Neolithic and the archeological remains are very poor.
The second period, MESOLITHIC 2, is also called the Natufian culture
. The change from
Mesolithic 1 to
Natufian culture can be dated more
closely. The latest date from a
Mesolithic 1 site in the
12,150 BCE. The earliest date from a Natufian site is 11,140 BCE. This
period is characterized by the early rise of agriculture that would
later emerge into the
Radiocarbon dating places the
Natufian culture between 12,500 and 9500 BCE, just before the end of
Pleistocene . This period is characterised by the beginning of
agriculture. The earliest known battle occurred during the Mesolithic
period at a site in
Sudan known as
Cemetery 117 .
Natufian culture is commonly split into two subperiods: Early
Natufian (12,500–10,800 BCE) (Christopher Delage gives c.
13,000–11,500 BP uncalibrated, equivalent to c. 13,700–11,500 BCE)
and Late Natufian (10,800–9500 BCE). The Late Natufian most likely
occurred in tandem with the
Younger Dryas .
Two skeletons of women aged between 25 and 35 years, dated
between 6740 and 5680 BP, both of whom died a violent death. Found at
France in 1938.
Mesolithic began with the
Holocene warm period around 11,660 BP
and ended with the introduction of farming , the date of which varied
in each geographical region. Regions that experienced greater
environmental effects as the last glacial period ended have a much
Mesolithic era, lasting millennia. In northern Europe,
for example, societies were able to live well on rich food supplies
from the marshlands created by the warmer climate. Such conditions
produced distinctive human behaviors that are preserved in the
material record, such as the
Azilian cultures. Such
conditions also delayed the coming of the
Neolithic until as late as
5000–4000 BCE in northern Europe.
As the "
Neolithic package" (including farming, herding, polished
stone axes, timber longhouses and pottery) spread into Europe, the
Mesolithic way of life was marginalized and eventually disappeared.
Mesolithic adaptations such as sedentism, population size and use of
plant foods are cited as evidence of the transition to agriculture.
In one sample from the Blätterhöhle in
Hagen , it seems that the
Mesolithic people maintained a foraging lifestyle for
more than 2000 years after the arrival of farming societies in the
area. In north-Eastern Europe, the hunting and fishing lifestyle
continued into the
Medieval period in regions less suited to
In North-Eastern Europe, Siberia, and certain southern European and
North African sites, a "ceramic Mesolithic" can be distinguished
between 7000-3850 BCE. Russian archaeologists prefer to describe such
pottery-making cultures as Neolithic, even though farming is absent.
Mesolithic culture can be found peripheral to the
Neolithic cultures. It created a distinctive type of
pottery, with point or knob base and flared rims, manufactured by
methods not used by the
Neolithic farmers. Though each area of
Mesolithic ceramic developed an individual style, common features
suggest a single point of origin. The earliest manifestation of this
type of pottery may be in the region around Lake Baikal in Siberia. It
appears in the Elshan or Yelshanka or
Samara culture on the Volga in
Russia c. 7000 BCE, and from there spread via the Dnieper-Donets
culture to the
Narva culture of the Eastern Baltic. Spreading westward
along the coastline it is found in the
Ertebølle culture of Denmark
and Ellerbek of Northern Germany, and the related Swifterbant culture
of the Low Countries.
Levant : 20,000 to 9500 BCE; Europe : 9660 to 5000
BCE; Elsewhere : 10,000 to 400 BCE
Balkan mesolithic cultures
Lepenski Vir culture
Neman culture ,
Nøstvet and Lihult cultures
LIST OF MESOLITHIC SITES
Lepenski Vir , Serbia: 7000 BCE
Star Carr , England: 8700 BCE
Pulli settlement , Estonia: 9000 BCE
Franchthi cave , Greece: 20,000–3000 BCE
Cramond , Scotland: 8500 BCE
* Mount Sandel , Ireland: 7010 BCE
Howick house , England: 7000 BCE
* Newbury , England
Swifterbant culture , The Netherlands
* Aveline\'s Hole , Somerset, England: 8000 BCE
Shigir Idol , Russia: 9500 BCE
* Paisra Munger , India: 7000 BCE
10th millennium BCE
9th millennium BCE
9th millennium BCE
8th millennium BCE
7th millennium BCE
Archaic Period (Americas)
* List of
Stone Age art
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* Dragoslav Srejovic Europe's First Monumental Sculpture: New
Discoveries at Lepenski Vir. (1972) ISBN 0-500-39009-6
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