The Paleolithic Age (c. 2,500,000 – 10,000 BCE)

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THE HUNTER AND GATHERERS OF THE OLD STONE AGE

stone age tools

What sets the human species apart from the others, is the ability to make tools. The earliest known tools were made of stone, which is where the Stone Age gets its name from.

stoneage

For hundreds and thousands of years humans were hunters and gatherers. Early humans came to know which animals to hunt and which plants to eat. Cultivation and Pastoralism came much later. They did not know how to grow crops and raise animals, but they did know how to gather wild fruits, nuts, berries, grain, and green plants. They could also hunt buffalo, horses, bison, wild goats, and reindeer. In the coastal areas, early humans could also hunt fish.

stone age spear

Due to the way humans obtained their food, they had to live by certain patterns. Archaeologist and Anthropologist assume that the Paleolithic people lived in small bands of 20 – 30, and they were nomadic, following their food sources. Hunting was a group effort and required extensive observation of the prey. Over many years,  tools became more refined and efficient, such as the invention of the spear and the bow and arrow. Eventually, there were also harpoons and fish hooks made from animal bone.

stone age woman

Both men and women were responsible for finding food, and finding food was pretty much the only main task of the Stone Age people. Since women bore and fed the children, they usually stayed close to the camps and gathered berries, nuts, and grains that had grown nearby. Men hunted far away from camp. There is speculation that men and women roles were generally equal and both made important decisions that affected their band.

stone age fire

Some Stone Age humans from colder climates, found shelter in caves. Over time they used what was available to create more efficient forms of shelter. The most common shelters were probably tents made of wooden poles (or mammoth bone poles, if there was no wood) covered with animal hides. Fire, which was believed to be used as early as 500,000 years ago, was a source of heat and light for the Stone Age humans. Fire also enabled the early humans to cook their food, making it taste better, last longer, and/or digest easier.

chauvet rhino

Making tools and creating fire were key to survival, but Paleolithic people did more than just survive. Cave paintings found in southwestern France and northern Spain reveal that these people had culture. Many of the animals in the paintings were not food sources, which means that these paintings were either religious in nature, or aesthetic.

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