The Stone Age

Stone Age

Stone Age can be defined as the extensive prehistoric period when stone was widely used by humans for making tools. Various types of stone were used to make stone tools. For instance- chert and flint were chipped for use like weapons and cutting tools, while sandstone and basalt were used to make ‘ground stone’ tools like quern-stones, shell, bone, antler, and many other materials. Sediments such as clay were used in making pottery. This practice is followed now as well. Stone Age was followed by Copper, Bronze, and Iron Age.

The word ‘Stone Age’ was the brainchild of archaeologists. It was used for designating this huge pre-metallurgic period. The stone tools of this period survived even longer than the metallic tools. Stone Age is the 1st among the four-age system. This age was divided into younger and older part by Jens Jacob Worsaae in the 19th century, when he had undertaken the work with Danish Kitchen Middens. The division into Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic periods which is still very much familiar was proposed by John Lubbock in his ‘Pre-historic Times’.

Stone Age from the archaeological point of view

It is a general perception that the Stone Age started around three million years ago. It began in Africa with hominid tool making. Stone tools were not used by australopithecines, as believed by some archaeologists. Lithnic analysis has been carried out by archaeologists to trace the details of this period. This includes determining the typology, technology, and function of stone tools by measuring them. Flintknappers are used for this purpose.

Paleolithic

The Paleolithic can be described as prehistoric era marked by development of tools made up of stone. Around 99% of human history consists of this age. During this age, humans used to be grouped together and made to stay in societies operating on a small scale. These societies were called ‘bands’. Their source of livelihood used to be hunting animals in the wild and gathering plants. The characteristic feature of Paleolithic age was usage of stone tools in the knapped form. Tools were also made up of bone and wood. Other organic materials included vegetable fibers, leather, etc. The climate consisted of set of interglacial and glacial periods wherein periodic fluctuation between cool and warm temperatures used to take place.

Mesolithic

The Paleolithic Age came to an end with Mesolithic, or Epipaleolithic Age. This period started around 10000 years back. It was marked by increasing sea levels, along with need for adapting to changing environment and finding novel food sources. These changes were responded by development of microlithic tools. They derived their inspiration from earlier Paleolithic tools, so the name ‘Epipaleolithic’. However, Europeans used this term, as import of tools used to take place from Near East. Dog was considered as hunting companion.

Neolithic

The arrival of Neolithic Age was marked by agrarian economy. It was known as ‘Neolithic Revolution’. Pottery had progressed to a great extent. Bigger settlements like Jericho and Catal Huyuk got developed. This led to the emergence of Mediterranean, and Indus valley civilization. Stone thus played a major role in expansion and improvement of mankind.