Fancy Becoming An Expert in Stone Age Archaeology in 5 Minutes? Yes? Then read on…
First things first, because our Stone Age ancestors didn’t actually write anything down, the whole period is conjecture. Finding some flint axes in a cave could mean anything; the cave could have been a religious site or a home, or the axes could have been dumped by a fleeing Stone Age robber! While not all conjecture is equally valid (mainstream archaeologists tend to frown at theories of Atlantis or aliens), it is worth remembering that everything prior to written records is a “best guess”.
20 Mesolithic Flints: Don’t assume; they may have just been dumped in that cave by a Stone Age Bill Sykes
Next up…time. It’s amazing how much is produced on the 20th Century. As an estimate, I would say the majority of non-fiction falls into this period and yet it’s just 100 years of the story of humanity. Compare that with the Stone Age which lasted over 2 million years; it’s a positive blank by comparison in terms of books, games, movies, documentaries etc.
The overall period is broken down into 3 eras:
1) The Palaeolithic (Old Stone Age) is the term used to describe the period from the dawn of ape-humans (roughly 2.5 million years ago) to the last ice age (10,000 years ago). This era covers over 2 million years and actually encompasses the majority of the time we’ve been on this planet. Huge changes occurred in this time;
We roamed beyond our motherland of the Great Rift Valley in East Africa
- We started to shed our fur and our brains became bigger.
- We go from Hominids (basically smart Apes that walked upright) to more human versions-Homo-erectus.
- Homo-sapiens out smarted/out fought/out bred the Neanderthals (our cousins, not ancestors, I might add) in Europe.
Venus Von Willenorf: Are you sure it was only our brains that got bigger?
2) The Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) describes the period of the ice age to the time of permanent settlement (so about 10,000 BC to 4,000 BC);
- Modern humans roam, leading a hunter-gatherer existence
- There are a few areas of more permanent settlement at this time; however, this period mainly shows us that small groups of humans wandered around, living off what the nearby environment had to offer.
- Favourite Fact Alert! – Hunting mammoths didn’t involve a few brave men with spears. Instead they panicked them with fire making the animals run off the edge of cliffs so allowing gravity to do all the dirty work for them-that’s your ancestors…
3) The Neolithic (New Stone Age). This period spans 4,000- 2,000 BC, and we;
- Invented buildings, founded settlements, and began farming the land.
- Consequently, specialisations begin to occur – traders, religious castes, warriors and rulers.
- We build Stonehenge.
- Early dynastic-Egypt begins.
These people used any basic tools they could. There are rare examples of carved antlers, basic pottery and some wood work preserved in bogs. However, as stone doesn’t degrade, this is our basis of understanding of their culture. And so we named the era – The Stone-Age! I know, so imaginative!
Stonehenge. Neolithic dominos anyone?
Here are some basic facts to make you an expert on Stone-Age finds:
- Get a stone (doesn’t have to be flint but it is good for fracturing).
- Whack a bit off.
- The “flake” that comes off will be small, and this can be worked into something small and light like an arrow head.
- Again, get a stone.
- Keep whacking bits off.
- The remaining “core” of the rock has been worked into a useful shape like a hand axe.
That’s it. Easy. So, if you follow these basic rules you can now be considered an expert on most of the history of humanity across the globe. And people get degrees for this stuff, honestly…
To Summarise: To make your own Stone Age tools – just keep ‘whacking’ bits off!