Paleolithic [%PREMIUM_LINK%] (pā'lē-ə-lĭth'ĭk) Pronunciation Key |
The cultural period of the Stone Age that began about 2.5 to 2 million years ago, marked by the earliest use of tools made of chipped stone. The Paleolithic Period ended at different times in different parts of the world, generally around 10,000 years ago in Europe and the Middle East. Also called Old Stone Age. ◇ The Lower Paleolithic is by far the longest division of this period, lasting until about 200,000 years ago and characterized by hammerstones and simple core tools such as hand axes and cleavers. The earliest tools belong to the Oldowan tool culture and may have been made by australopithecines as well as by Homo habilis. Later Lower Paleolithic cultures include the Abbevilian, Clactonian, Acheulian, and Levalloisian, associated with early Homo erectus. ◇ The Middle Paleolithic is generally dated to about 40,000 years ago and is associated with archaic Homo sapiens, primarily the Neanderthals and their Mousterian tool culture. The tools produced during this period represent improvements on those of the Lower Paleolithic, especially in flaking techniques, but remain little changed throughout the duration of the period. ◇ The Upper Paleolithic dates to about 10,000 years ago in Europe and the Middle East and is associated with modern Homo sapiens. Various distinctive local tool cultures such as the Aurignacian, Solutrean, and Magdalenian flourished during this relatively brief period, producing a great variety of skillfully flaked tools as well as tools made of bone, antler, wood, and other materials. Compare Mesolithic, Neolithic.