Old Stone Age

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The Paleolithic - in technical language, the Palaeolithic , from Greek παλαιός (palaios) "old" and λίθος (lithos) "stone" - was the first and longest period of prehistory and denotes the oldest section of the Stone Age in Europe and Asia . The term refers to the dominant tradition of stone tools , while tools made from bone and wood are comparatively rarely found. In Africa the term Early Stone Age is used. This breakdown is not common on the American continent and in Australia.

The systematic manufacture of stone tools was a crucial step in hominization . Both the early representatives of the genus Homo and their descendants, the Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon humans , lived as hunters and gatherers .


Paleolithic finds in the Wetterau Museum in Friedberg (Hesse).

The British anthropologist Sir John Lubbock , in his Prehistoric Times , published in 1865, divided the Stone Age into the "period of the cut stone " ( Old Stone Age 'Paleolithic') and the "period of the cut stone ", which he called the New Stone Age ' Neolithic ' .


The beginning of the term Paleolithic is linked to the manufacture of the first stone tools . With the basal human history in Africa, the Early Stone Age began there around 2.5 million years ago with the culture of Oldowan . Even older stone tools (around 2.6 million years old) are thought to be attributed to an as yet unknown ancestor of Homo ergaster .

The Acheuléen, which can also be assigned to the Early Stone Age, is characterized by hand axes and is the first archaeological culture that has been extensively proven in Asia and Europe and thus proves the Out-of-Africa theory . Homo ergaster and Homo erectus were the carriers of these tools . The African Middle Stone Age and Later Stone Age differ in time from other continents.

The European Paleolithic Age is divided into the three periods of the Old Paleolithic , Middle Paleolithic and Upper Paleolithic , within which there are archaeological cultures that are delimited using characteristic stone tools. Carriers of the oldest settlement horizon were Homo antecessor , which was previously only defined in northern Spain, and Homo heidelbergensis in the rest of Europe (as the European variant of Homo erectus ). In the geoscientific tradition, the archaeological cultures are usually named after the first sites of the respective time period, the so-called type localities . In addition to the Acheuléen, the technocomplex of Clactonia , which is only relevant to research history today, was used in Europe for inventories of the Old Paleolithic without a wedge.

  • The Middle Paleolithic or the Neanderthal period is often associated with the beginning of the Levallois technique . Important cultures are:
    • Moustérien , approx. 200,000 BC BC to 40,000 BC Chr., Which is characterized by very finely crafted workpieces in numerous, functionally designed shapes. Finely formed hand axes are typical .
    • Micoquien (or "Wedge Knife Groups"), approx. 130,000 BC BC to 70,000 BC BC, appearance of the wedge knife
    • Blade tip groups using flat and oval tools ( blade tips ).
    • Châtelperronia until approx. 34,000 BC BC (regionally restricted, France and northern Spain)

The Paleolithic ends in the Middle East (" Fertile Crescent ") and in China about 20,000 to 12,000 years ago with a gradual replacement of the wild-hunted way of life by agriculture and animal husbandry ( Epipalaeolithic ). The productive way of life emerged much later in other regions of the world. In Europe, too, the transition to agriculture took place later, here the Middle Stone Age (Mesolithic) followed the Paleolithic .

See also

Portal: Prehistory and Protohistory  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the subject of Prehistory and Protohistory


  • Lutz Fiedler, Gae͏̈lle Rosendahl, Wilfried Rosendahl: Paleolithic from A to Z. WBG, Darmstadt 2011, ISBN 978-3-534-23050-1 .
  • Jürgen Richter: Paleolithic. The way of the early humans from Africa to the middle of Europe. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2017, ISBN 978-3-17-033676-6 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ John Lubbock: Prehistoric Times, as Illustrated by Ancient Remains and the Manners and Customs of Modern Savages. Williams and Norgate, London 1865 (English; German edition: The prehistoric times explained through the remains of antiquity and the manners and customs of today's savages. Costenoble, Jena 1874, 2 volumes).
  2. Sileshi Semaw: The World's Oldest Stone Artefacts from Gona, Ethiopia: Their Implications for Understanding Stone Technology and Patterns of Human Evolution Between 2 6–1 5 Million Years Ago. In: Journal of Archaeological Science. 27, No. 12, 2000, pp. 1197–1214, doi : 10.1006 / jasc.1999.0592 (full text also at indiana.edu as PDF ).