Paleolithic Timeline

Paleolithic Timeline

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  • c. 2600000 BCE - c. 250000 BCE

    Lower- or Early Palaeolithic industry.

  • c. 2600000 BCE

    First known tool use (stone ones) by early hominins, discovered in present-day Ethiopia.

  • c. 400000 BCE

    From around this time, the habitual use of fire by humans becomes visible in the archaeological record.

  • c. 250000 BCE - c. 30000 BCE

    Middle Palaeolithic industry (carried on until c. 30,000 years ago in certain areas, while other populations can already be paired with the Upper Palaeolithic industry from between c. 50,000-40,000 years ago onwards)

  • c. 50000 BCE - c. 10000 BCE

    Upper- or Late Palaeolithic industry (began popping up somewhere between c. 50,000-40,000 years ago)

  • c. 12000 BCE

    End of the most recent Ice Age. End of the Pleistocene and beginning of the Holocene epoch.

Paleolithic Age – Definition, Timeline, Facts, Lifestyle, Culture, Tools, Achievements

Often known as “The Old Stone Age”, the Paleolithic age is a time period that existed about 2.6 million years ago. During the Paleolithic Period, there were more than one human species that lived, such as Homo erectus, Neanderthal, Homo habilis, Homo heidelbergensis amongst others. However, most of the species died and now there is only one: Homo sapiens, which is us.

During the Paleolithic Period, human-like species used stone tools most often. Thus, the name Paleolithic age or stone age. Stone tools were used to meet the three basic needs of humans: food, shelter, and clothing. Huts were made of stone while caves were guarded using them, food was chopped and cooked using stone tools, and clothing often included a combination of leaves, stones, and earlier versions of ropes. In this article, we’ll learn about the Paleolithic age timeline, facts, tools, lifestyle, art, culture, language and more. So keep reading!


As planet Earth took form, agglomerated from leftover debris surrounding the newborn sun, it settled into a rather remarkable position. Our home world, about 4.5 billion years old, happened to combine the right materials with the correct distance from our host star to blossom into a hospitable planet, covered in water, vegetation and roaming wildlife of all varieties.

For some 3.7 billion years, life and the planet continued to evolve together, entwined in a mutual ebb and flow of evolutionary creation and cataclysmic devastation. Temperature records—compiled from miles-long ice cores filled with preserved gas bubbles and the remains of unicellular ocean-dwellers—can be compared to the fossil record to help scientists fill in the timeline of Earth’s history. The Cambrian explosion, for example, some 541 million years ago, saw a proliferation of complex life in the world’s oceans, possibly brought about by an increase in oxygen. The Permian extinction 252 million years ago, sparked by a rapid increase in volcanic activity and CO2 in the atmosphere, wiped out some 90 percent of all marine species and 70 percent of terrestrial species.

The planet’s ebbs and flows continue today, with one notable additional variable: humans. For thousands of years, our species has manipulated the climate through agriculture, deforestation, herding and other land use. And in just the past 100 years or so, we’ve extracted and burned exorbitant amounts of fossil fuels in the forms of coal and oil—fuels that were largely created over millions of years as dead plankton and other organic material was buried under the seafloor. Powering our rails and our cars, our factories and our homes has released hundreds of billions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, mirroring large-scale carbon emission events of the distant, prehistoric past.

The result, as observed and confirmed by thousands and thousands of scientific papers, is a period of rapid global warming, unprecedented in geologic history. The graph above gives a sense of temperature changes over the past 20,000 years, with a major spike in the past century, and two projections of future temperatures for the next 3,000 years that depend on whether our species manages to curb its carbon emissions.

“The history of our planet has been marked by changes in temperature” as well as “the ever-throbbing drum of evolving organisms,” says Kirk Johnson, the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. “But climate change is different.” Though the planet has been hot before—hotter than it is now—today’s rate of change has never been seen in the temperature record.

By examining the 400-million-year timeline of Earth’s climate history below, compared to the last 20,000 years, we may better understand the changes we are driving and the possible futures we face as a species—and as the only known planet of living beings.

Paleolithic Timeline - History

  • Palaeolithic tools were club, sharpened stone, chopper, hand axe, scraper, spear, Bow and arrow, harpoon, needle, scratch awl etc.
  • The tools made were generally of hard rock quartzite so the Palaeolithic man was called Quartzite Man.
  • Handaxe:
    • A handaxe is generally a core tool. It is also known as a biface, because it is usually worked on both sides.
    • Generally made on a core, it is roughly triangular in shape, broad at one end and pointed at the other (Its butt end is broader and the working end is narrower.)
    • It might have been used for cutting and digging purposes.
    • A cleaver is a flattish tool made on a broad rectangular or triangular flake, on one end of which is a broad and straight cutting edge.
    • This has a biface edge.
    • It was used for clearing and splitting objects such as trunks of trees.
    • A chopper is a large, unifacial tool, i.e. worked on one side only and used for chopping purposes.
    • It is again a massive core tool like Chopper.
    • A chopping tool is a tool made on a core or a pebble and is flaked alternately on both sides to produce a wavy cutting edge.
    • Used for similar purpose as the chopper, it was more effective due to its edge being sharper.
    • A desired crude shape tool produced by applying force on the stone.
    • Side Scraper is made of a flake or blade with continuous retouch along a border.
    • It might have been used for scraping barks of trees and animal skins.
    • A burin is a small tool made on a blade. A blade is a flake tool.
    • It has a sharp but thickset working border, similar to that of a modern screwdriver.
    • It was used for engraving on soft stones, bones or walls of rock shelters and cores.
    • These are associated with the lower palaeolithic, but continue well afterwards as well.

    • Factory sites are generally located close to the sources of raw materials and are marked by a profusion of stone tools in various stages of preparation. In many instances, they were visited and used during several phases of the stone age.

    Palaeolithic age in India is divided into three phases:

    • Palaeolithic Tools/ Palaeolithic Culture has been divided into three phases on the basis of the nature of stone tools made by human beings as well as due to the changes in the climate and environment.
    • The tools of:
      • lower Palaeolithic phase include mainly handaxes, cleavers, choppers and chopping tools
      • middle Palaeolithic industries are based upon flakes, and
      • upper Palaeolithic is characterised by burins and scrapers

      (1) Early or Lower Palaeothic (50,0000 – 100,000 BC)

      The Paleolithic Age

      The Paleolithic Age defines the time period when humans hunted and gathered their sustenance. This means of making a living necessitated fairly sparse populations as the amount of consumable products provided by unmanipulated nature was seldom plentiful and was generally unreliable.

      Spanning perhaps a million years, the Paleolithic Age encompassed the time period when humans began using tools to the time period about 9000 years ago when they started to farm and domesticate animals. Of course, the dates here must be mere conjecture. They are based mainly on archeological studies where bones have been found at campsites and grave sites. The bones have been subjected to carbon dating which is a process that examines the radio-active component in carbon-based life forms called carbon-14. Organic matter ceases to renew these carbons when death occurs. Carbon-14 decays at a rate of about half its strength every 5730 years. The length of time since the death of the animal or human can be estimated up to about 50,000 years.

      The Paleolithic Age is not a part of recorded history as writing was not invented until long after the subsequent Neolithic Age began. However, it does form the antecedents of ancient history. There are several attributes peculiar to humans that allowed them to be able to advance to the hunter-gatherer stage of development. This had much to do with brain size and the opposable thumb. The ability to sit up and walk upright also allowed early humans to put these two advantages to use. Tools and weapons could be employed because hands were not necessary to transportation. Tools proved to be a huge benefit in hunting and gathering.

      Social structures, usually based on the family and tribe, provided a means to leverage work and enabled these people to take on bigger animals. The groups also provided protection in the face of competition for resources and natural disasters. They also allowed the transfer of knowledge from one generation to the next. The manner in which tools were made or a fire started could be vital for the survival and advancement of the tribe. The advent of language, whenever it came about, added to this process.

      It is thought that people of this period began to build rough lean-tos. They certainly lived in caves. With a central base of operations the food gathered could be stored, which helped to regularize diets and prevent the uneven availability of food. Containers were made to store the food. Drying was used as a primary means of food preservation. Grains could be especially amenable to this treatment. The skins of animals were used as protection from the cold and other elements. Even a crude form of sewing to link animal skins together came about during this period.

      Tools could be made from a variety of substances including wood, stone, bones, and shells. Trade between different areas developed during the latter part of the Paleolithic Age. In this manner tool-making technologies probably migrated across peoples and regions. Neanderthals were known to have been skilled in creating tools which utilized flaked stones and spears.

      Fishing as a means of hunting is thought to have come into existence by 22,000 B.C. Toward the end of the Paleolithic Age, objects beyond tools began to be made, including jewelry and instruments. Paintings found in caves, as well as carvings, were made that may have had religious significance or may have been used to tell stories.

      Life expectancy during this period is hard to determine. However, modern estimates, based on archeological digs, put the average age at death at about 30 for people who managed to live past childhood. A very small percentage would live to old age.

      History of Greece: The Stone Age

      The earliest evidence of habitation comes in the form of a skull that was found in the Petralona Cave in Halikidiki. The cranium has been difficult to date, with some estimates indicating that it is about between 300,000 and 400,000 years old. While questions abound regarding the exact age and the species of the cranium, it has been classified as a hybrid between &ldquoHomo Erectus, the first hominid to migrate out Africa, and Homo Neanderthalensis, the early human that dominated Europe and the Near East before the advent of our own species. (Runnels & Murray, 15)

      The earliest evidence of burials and commerse in the Aegean which have been dated to 7250 BCE were unearthed in Franchthi cave in the Argolid. A wealth of stone tools found in sites in Epirus, Thessaly, Macedonia, and the Peloponnesse reveal the existence of flourishing Paleolithic and Mesolithic communities in the Greek mainland. The Neolithic settlements of Sesklo (c. 7000 - 3200 BCE) and Dimini (c. 4800 &ndash 4500 BCE) in Thessaly exhibit early evidence sophisticated social organization, fortifications, and construction of pottery art and &ldquomegaron&rdquo houses.

      While the Mycenaean is considered the first &ldquoHellenic&rdquo civilization, the various settlements testify that the territory that defines modern Greece was a hub of cultural activity since the Stone Age. Several Paleolithic open air sites have been unearthed in Epirus, Macedonia and Peloponnese, but the Mesolithic and Neolithic settlements found are much more numerous. The settlements of Dimini and Sesklo show that that stone age peoples of Greece had reached a high level of development by 3000 BCE with advanced economies and complex social structure.

      Where Did The Hunter-Gatherers Live?

      Early hunter-gatherers moved as nature dictated, adjusting to proliferation of vegetation, the presence of predators or deadly storms. Basic, impermanent shelters were established in caves and other areas with protective rock formations, as well as in open-air settlements where possible.

      Hand-built shelters likely date back to the time of Homo erectus, though one of the earliest known constructed settlements, from 400,000 years ago in Terra Amata, France, is attributed to Homo heidelbergensis.

      By 50,000 years ago, huts made from wood, rock and bone were becoming more common, fueling a shift to semi-permanent residencies in areas with abundant resources. The remains of man’s first known year-round shelters, discovered at the Ohalo II site in Israel, date back at least 23,000 years.


      William Paul Thurston (1946 – 2012) was an American mathematician and a pioneer in the fields of topology, manifolds and geometric group theory.

      Thurston's Geometrization Conjecture is about describing the structure and geometry of different three-dimensional spaces. In 1982, he was awarded the Fields Medal for his study of 3D manifolds.

      Paleolithic Lifestyle

      The Paleolithic era was also known as the Stone Age era. It was nearly 200,000 years back that they started activities like hunting and collecting fruits. At this period survival was very important. The food was basically animal meat, fruits and vegetables. Food was mostly eaten raw and was considered enough.

      Normally diseases existed, but these people preferred eating food sucked by insects or bacteria. There were many health malfunction and was seen many years forward too. Hence, if you go on a Paleolithic diet, you would be consuming meat, fruits and veggies. With increasing population and invention of fire man began to cook food. The choice and need increased and most of them shifted to drinking milk mainly from donkey and goats. Animals were kept as pet and taken out while they went for hunting. If you look at the food quality, there are actually proteins, fats, carbs, and nutrients involved. Hence, they survived most of the traumatic situations.

      Let us look at the protein content, fishes and meat contains proteins while fruits and veggies were source of carbohydrates. Milk includes fats and this era saw men consuming red meat too. The lifestyle involved going together in groups, hunting together and sharing food. The clothes that they wore were made of animal skin which was used as a medium to protect them from cold. Slowly, there was a change in lifestyle with newer settlements and invention of fire and metal. Pottery, hunting and agriculture were primarily carried out. Men started living in colonies rather than caves and on trees. Slowly, they began building roads and manufacturing small vehicles and other modes of transport. Initial vehicles were bullock-carts and other smaller vehicles which was made of bones and wood.

      The Paleolithic era is also fondly known as the Stone Age period. It existed between (2.5 million - 20000 years ago). The era was beginning of small innovations carried on within the group for survival. It began with preparing and manufacturing tools and hunting. Slowly, the attention went to developing societies and settlements. More..

      Economy in Old stone age

      In the Paleolithic era, man in its nutrition used a variety of plants and animal meat. He daily collected edible roots, various herbal fruits, mushrooms, insects, honey, and variety of small animals and so on. A collecting economy has been present throughout an entire Old Stone Age. Parallel with this economy, was developed hunting skills on big herds.

      Entire human communities depended on the successful hunting. Therefore, all Paleolithic cultures of people were imbued with the hunting way of life and thinking.

      Most the tools of the time were used for hunting, animal skin peeling and cutting of the animal meat. In the beginning, people made stone spikes, and only later, particularly in the Upper Palaeolithic, they started to make significant progress in their hunting techniques. That is how they made first arches, and after that they also special throwers, which gave to the spears particular speed, and penetration as well.

      Paleolithic people most often used so-called chase hunt that at the time of the Lower and Middle Paleolithic was poorly represented and organized. However, later, such hunting technique has come to the fore in terms of its presence and organization. Namely, chase hunters forced animals into the mud and the straits, where they had no way out, and then they would chase them towards steep ravines where animals would fall and broke legs. They also dug holes on the tracks, which animals used in order to drink water or go on pasture. These holes were very well hidden so animals could not see them. That is how Paleolithic people by using trickery instead of offensive weapons, came to the necessary food. However, such hunting strategy was very dangerous and it required a lot of prudence, skill and courage because many animals were faster and stronger than man was. Paleolithic people hunted all types of animals that lived around them. By hunting, beside meat, they secured themselves with fat, bones, hair, horns and skin, thus everything that was of great importance in their fight for life. Especially valuable catch were large herbivores such as elephants, mammoths, deer and reindeer. On such occasions, the whole horde could despite the great feast, leave pieces of the meat as a food supply for the coming days.

      Hunting of the herd animals was not always successful. This type of hunting was more depended on circumstances, than on the available weapons. Therefore, in the life of paleolithic people, there were periods of fasting, which resulted in the appearance of cannibalism, which was particularly developed in Sinanthropus and Neanderthals. It is interesting that the first victims of this act were children, then people whose growth was bent, and patients who were not able to defend themselves. Frequent starvation’s led to a high mortality rate, especially among women. Many members of the Neanderthal species died at the age of 20, and there were rare cases of people who reached the border of 40 years of age.

      Paleolithic weapons and tools

      In addition to hunting, paleolithic people were engaged in fishing. The fishes were probably killed with harpoons, which were made of bones, and sometimes they hunted with stone hooks. Archaeological science firmly believes that people all the way to the Upper Palaeolithic used food in the raw state, in a state in which they came across in nature.

      However, with better understanding of the fire and its characteristics, people began to fry meat, but at the beginning, they did not cook food because they did not have adequate dishes. Finding the fire was of great importance. The man had started to use fire more in Acheulean period, but only as a gift of nature, i.e. product of volcanic eruptions, lightning or a big wildfire. Much later, paleolithic people succeed to make fire by friction between two wooden surfaces, or by making sparks using flint. Special care of each tribe was to keep the fire going because the skill of making fire was not available to anyone. That is why in some tribes there were people whose main concern and task was to maintain fire. Fireplace was the name of the place where the fire was made and maintained. Fireplace was not only used for food preparation and heating of the frostbite body parts but also for intimidation and scaring away wild animals that from a far lurked and tried to participate in the feast. Skilled craftsmen were making different tools and weapons near the fire. Near the fire was also a place where hunters prepared themselves for the hunt. Fireplace very quickly became a place, which everyone loved. The fire from the fireplace illuminated the interior of the caves or shelters. Therefore, an entire family lifetime took place near the fireplace.

      An paleolithic humans did not feel any need for permanent residence, nor for clothing. At night, they would flee before the beasts, usually in trees or in the thick branches of the trees, while against wind they used natural shelters. However, with time, descendants of paleolithic people started gradually but steadily to conquer and inhabited caves. Since then, people started more and more to appreciate cave, especially during the period of glaciers occurrence and spread of glaciers.

      In the Upper Paleolithic, caves became very popular places for residence. In the areas where there were not any caves, paleolithic people lived under the open sky and they had to endure a harsh climate. That is why an paleolithic people had an idea to build above ground shelters in the shape of cribs. They also started to make clothes out of animal’s skin. The oldest settlements and tools of work were found in southern Europe, then in Russia, and Southeast Asia, and in Africa. Paleolithic hunters very cleverly choose places of residence, confirming, in that way, that they were excellent experts in nature. They built shelters near the water, where animals would come to drink water. Near the water, it is the easiest place to attack and catch prey. A selection of permanent residence depended, in the first place, of this fact.

      The earliest settlements did not have partitions or doors and no windows. As the material for construction of these shelters paleolithic people used wood, branches, sticks, bark, leaves, straw, reeds, animal bones, skin, fur, stones, grass, clay and later mud bricks (initially dried, and later baked). The opening for the smoke, which at the same time was a source of light, paleolithic people left at the upper part of the cabin.

      Necessary supplies as well as accessories for the house was made of wood, branches, birch bark, mouths, bamboo, gourds, clay, leather, etc. Products for food were stored in special wicker containers, which were pasted with clay. The food was prepared in wooden troughs using hot stones. An earliest cooking of food was possible only when the pottery was discovered. As cutlery, paleolithic people used various cups, bowls, spoons, knives and sticks. For grinding of grains, they made stone millstones and wooden poles.

      First outfit was quite diverse. The oldest outfits are apron, belt, rope, skirt, while clothes with sleeves and pants appeared much later. Depending on climatic conditions, people have made clothes out of leaves, leather, vegetable fibers, hair, and they sewed clothes with needles made of bones. A little later, footwear was also made out of tree bark, leather, wool, etc.

      Building of the settlements, and then making clothes, shoes and household utensils directly affected the development, of trade and development of tools for processing wood, bark, processing of animal skin, and so on.
      The earliest means of transport were boats, then the sleds and skis, and later carts with wheels, which were made back in the Bronze Age.

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