Paleolithic Period


Paleolithic Period

Ancient technological or cultural stage characterized by the use of rudimentary chipped stone tools.

During the Lower Paleolithic (с 2,500,000–200,000 years ago), simple pebble tools and crude stone choppers were made by the earliest humans. About 700,000 years ago, the first rough hand ax appeared; it was later refined and used with other tools in the Acheulean industry. A flake-tool tradition emerged in the Middle Paleolithic, as exemplified by implements of the Mousterian industry. The Upper Paleolithic (40,000–10,000 BC) saw the emergence of more complex, specialized, and diverse regional stone-tool industries, such as the Aurignacian, Solutrean, and Magdalenian. The two principal forms of Paleolithic art are small sculptures
such as the so-called Venus figurines and various carved or shaped animal and other figures
and monumental paintings, incised designs, and reliefs on the walls of caves such as Altamira (in Spain) and Lascaux Grotto (in France). The end of the Paleolithic is marked by the emergence of the settled agricultural villages of the Neolithic Period.

* * *

also spelled  Palaeolithic Period,  also called  Old Stone Age 
 ancient cultural stage, or level, of human development, characterized by the use of rudimentary chipped stone tools. (See also Stone Age.)

      At sites dating from the Lower Paleolithic Period (about 2,500,000 to 200,000 years ago), simple pebble tools have been found in association with the remains of what may have been the earliest human ancestors. A somewhat more sophisticated Lower Paleolithic tradition, known as the Chopper chopping-tool industry, is widely distributed in the Eastern Hemisphere. This tradition is thought to have been the work of the hominin species named Homo erectus. Although no such fossil tools have yet been found, it is believed that H. erectus probably made tools of wood and bone as well as stone.

      About 700,000 years ago, a new Lower Paleolithic tool, the hand ax, appeared. The earliest European hand axes are assigned to the Abbevillian industry, which developed in northern France in the valley of the Somme River; a later, more refined hand-ax tradition is seen in the Acheulian industry (Acheulean industry), evidence of which has been found in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Some of the earliest known hand axes were found at Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania) in association with remains of H. erectus. Alongside the hand-ax tradition there developed a distinct and very different stone-tool industry, based on flakes (flake tool) of stone: special tools were made from worked (carefully shaped) flakes of flint. In Europe, the Clactonian industry is one example of a flake tradition. The early flake industries probably contributed to the development of the Middle Paleolithic flake tools of the Mousterian industry, which is associated with the remains of Neanderthal man.

      The Upper Paleolithic Period (beginning about 40,000 years ago) was characterized by the emergence of regional stone-tool industries, such as the Perigordian, Aurignacian, Solutrean, and Magdalenian of Europe, as well as other localized industries of the Old World and the oldest known cultures of the New World. Principally associated with the fossil remains of such anatomically modern humans as Cro-Magnons, Upper Paleolithic industries exhibit greater complexity, specialization, and variety of tool types and the emergence of distinctive regional artistic traditions.

      Two forms of Paleolithic art are known to modern scholars: small sculptures; and monumental paintings, incised designs, and reliefs on the walls of caves. Such works were produced throughout the Mediterranean region and other scattered parts of Eurasia and Africa but survived in quantity only in eastern Europe and parts of Spain and France.

      Small sculptured pieces evidently dominated the Upper Paleolithic artistic traditions of eastern Europe; typical were small, portable clay figurines and bone and ivory carvings. The works from this area include simple but realistic stone and clay animal figurines, as well as carved stone statuettes of women, referred to by scholars as Venus figures. These small, stylized figures are characteristically rotund, emphasizing parts of the female body associated with sexuality and fertility; many are so abstract that only protuberant breasts and exaggerated hips are clearly distinguishable.

      Monumental arts flourished in western Europe, the province of the so-called Franco-Cantabrian school (Franco-Cantabrian art), where limestone caves provided a sheltered surface for paintings, incised designs, and relief carvings. These caves have preserved much small carving of fine quality and an abundant and varied sample of prehistoric graphic art, from simple finger tracings in clay to sophisticated polychrome paintings, generally depicting animals, of dynamic naturalism and exquisite design.

      The function or purpose of art in Paleolithic life remains a subject of debate. Some scholars see the human and animal representations as evidence of the use of magical rites to ensure success in hunting or to guarantee fertility. Others have suggested that Paleolithic artists' accurate representations of animals' coats may be an early attempt to produce a seasonal notation system. Another viewpoint, disregarding utility altogether, sees the art of Paleolithic peoples solely as an outgrowth of a basic human need to creatively record and reproduce aspects of the surrounding world.

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Paleolithic — [pā΄lē ə lith′ik] adj. [ PALEO + LITHIC] [sometimes p ] designating or of an Old World cultural period ( c. 2 million c. 10,000 B.C. ) before the Mesolithic, characterized by the use of flint, stone, and bone tools, hunting, fishing, and the… …   English World dictionary

  • Paleolithic man — n. any of the types of humans of the Paleolithic period, including Java, Neanderthal, and Cro Magnon man …   English World dictionary

  • Paleolithic — The Paleolithic This box: view · talk · edit ↑ before Homo (Plioc …   Wikipedia

  • Paleolithic diet — This article is about a modern nutritional approach. For information on the dietary practices of Paleolithic humans, see Paleolithic#Diet and nutrition. Paleolithic style dish: seafood stew The modern dietary regimen known as the Paleolithic diet …   Wikipedia

  • Paleolithic religion — The origin and early development of religion falls into the Paleolithic. Religious behaviour had certainly emerged by the Upper Paleolithic, before 30,000 years ago at the latest, [ Andre Leroi Gourhan and Annette Michelson, The Religion of the… …   Wikipedia

  • Paleolithic Europe — Homo erectus and Neanderthals settled in Paleolithic Europe long before the emergence of modern humans, Homo sapiens . The bones of the earliest Europeans are found in Dmanisi, Georgia, dated at 1.8 million years before the present. West Europe… …   Wikipedia

  • Paleolithic — 1. noun /ˈpeɪl.ɪi.əʊˌlɪɵ.ɪk,ˈpæl.ɪi.oʊˌlɪɵ.ɪk/ A period that lasted from two and a half million years ago to 10,000 BC; the Old Stone Age. Syn: Old Stone Age See Also: lith 2. adjective /ˈpeɪl.ɪi.əʊˌlɪɵ.ɪk,ˈpæl.ɪi.oʊˌlɪɵ.ɪk/ Of or referring to… …   Wiktionary

  • period — /pear ee euhd/, n. 1. a rather large interval of time that is meaningful in the life of a person, in history, etc., because of its particular characteristics: a period of illness; a period of great profitability for a company; a period of social… …   Universalium

  • paleolithic man — noun Usage: often capitalized P : a man of or peculiar to the Paleolithic period (as the Heidelberg, Neanderthal, or CroMagnon) * * * any of the prehistoric populations of humans, as the Cro Magnon, living in the late Pliocene and the Pleistocene …   Useful english dictionary

  • period of time — noun an amount of time (Freq. 7) a time period of 30 years hastened the period of time of his recovery Picasso s blue period • Syn: ↑time period, ↑period • Hypernyms: ↑ …   Useful english dictionary


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.