Meaning of STONE AGE in English

prehistoric cultural stage, or level of human development, characterized by the creation and use of stone tools. The Stone Age is usually divided into three separate periodsPaleolithic Period, Mesolithic Period, and Neolithic Periodbased on the degree of sophistication in the fashioning and use of tools. Paleolithic archaeology is concerned with the origins and development of early human culture between the first appearance of man as a tool-using mammal, which is believed to have occurred about 600,000 or 700,000 years ago, and the beginning of the Recent geologic era, about 8000 BC. It is included in the time span of the Pleistocene, or Glacial, Epochan interval of about 1,000,000 years. Although it cannot be proved, modern evidence suggests that the earliest protohuman forms had diverged from the ancestral primate stock by the beginning of the Pleistocene. In any case, the oldest recognizable tools are found in horizons of Lower Pleistocene Age. During the Pleistocene a series of momentous climatic events occurred. The northern latitudes and mountainous areas were subjected on four successive occasions to the advances and retreats of ice sheets (known as Gnz, Mindel, Riss, and Wrm in the Alps), river valleys and terraces were formed, the present coastlines were established, and great changes were induced in the fauna and flora of the globe. In large measure, the development of culture during Paleolithic times seems to have been profoundly influenced by the environmental factors that characterize the successive stages of the Pleistocene Epoch. Throughout the Paleolithic, man was a food gatherer, depending for his subsistence on hunting wild animals and birds, fishing, and collecting wild fruits, nuts, and berries. The artifactual record of this exceedingly long interval is very incomplete; it can be studied from such imperishable objects of now-extinct cultures as were made of flint, stone, bone, and antler. These alone have withstood the ravages of time, and, together with the remains of contemporary animals hunted by our prehistoric forerunners, they are all that scholars have to guide them in attempting to reconstruct human activity throughout this vast intervalapproximately 98 percent of the time span since the appearance of the first true hominid stock. In general, these materials develop gradually from single, all-purpose tools to an assemblage of varied and highly specialized types of artifacts, each designed to serve in connection with a specific function. Indeed, it is a process of increasingly more complex technologies, each founded on a specific tradition, that characterizes the cultural development of Paleolithic times. In other words, the trend was from simple to complex, from a stage of nonspecialization to stages of relatively high degrees of specialization, just as has been the case during historic times. In the manufacture of stone implements, four fundamental traditions were developed by the Paleolithic ancestors: (1) pebble-tool traditions; (2) bifacial-tool, or hand-ax, traditions; (3) flake-tool traditions; and (4) blade-tool traditions. Only rarely are any of these found in pure form, and this fact has led to mistaken notions in many instances concerning the significance of various assemblages. Indeed, though a certain tradition might be superseded in a given region by a more advanced method of producing tools, the older technique persisted as long as it was needed for a given purpose. In general, however, there is an overall trend in the order as given above, starting with simple pebble tools that have a single edge sharpened for cutting or chopping. But no true pebble-tool horizons had yet, by the late 20th century, been recognized in Europe. In southern and eastern Asia, on the other hand, pebble tools of primitive type continued in use throughout Paleolithic times. French place-names have long been used to designate the various Paleolithic subdivisions, since many of the earliest discoveries were made in France. This terminology has been widely applied in other countries, notwithstanding the very great regional differences that do in fact exist. But the French sequence still serves as the foundation of Paleolithic studies in other parts of the Old World. Hallam L. Movius, Jr. The Editors of the Encyclopdia Britannica There is reasonable agreement that the Paleolithic ended with the beginning of the Recent (Holocene) geologic and climatic era about 8000 BC. It is also increasingly clear that a developmental bifurcation in man's culture history took place at about this time. In most of the world, especially in the temperate and tropical woodland environments or along the southern fringes of Arctic tundra, the older Upper Paleolithic traditions of life were simply readapted toward more or less increasingly intensified levels of food collection. These cultural readaptations of older food procedures to the variety and succession of post-Pleistocene environments are generally referred to as occurring in the Mesolithic Period. But also by 8000 BC (if not even somewhat earlier) in certain semi-arid environments of the world's middle latitudes, traces of a quite different course of development began to appear. These traces indicate a movement toward incipient agriculture and (in one or two instances) animal domestication. In the case of southwestern Asia, this movement had already culminated in a level of effective village-farming communities by 7000 BC. In Meso-America, a comparable developmentsomewhat different in its details and without animal domesticationwas taking place almost as early. It may thus be maintained that in the environmentally favourable portions of southwestern Asia, Meso-America, the coastal slopes below the Andes, and perhaps in southeastern Asia (for which little evidence is available), little if any trace of the Mesolithic stage need be anticipated. The general level of culture probably shifted directly from that of the Upper Paleolithic to that of incipient cultivation and domestication. The picture presented by the culture history of the earlier portion of the Recent period is thus one of two generalized developmental patterns: (1) the cultural readaptations to post-Pleistocene environments on a more or less intensified level of food collection; and (2) the appearance and development of an effective level of food production. It is generally agreed that this latter appearance and development was achieved quite independently in various localities in both the Old and New Worlds. As the procedures and the plant or animal domesticates of this new food-producing level gained effectiveness and flexibility to adapt to new environments, the new level expanded at the expense of the older, more conservative one. Finally, it is only within the matrix of a level of food production that any of the world's civilizations have been achieved. Robert J. Braidwood The Editors of the Encyclopdia Britannica Additional reading A sampling of the many regional studies includes, on Africa, C. Garth Sampson, The Stone Age Archaeology of Southern Africa (1974), an archaeological sourcebook surveying 2,000,000 years of human prehistory; on Asia, Robert Stigler (ed.), The Old World: Early Man to the Development of Agriculture (1974), a brief introduction to Paleolithic culture and the beginnings of the major civilizations in South Asia and the Middle East; on Europe, Sarunas Milisauskas, European Prehistory (1978), an anthropological treatment from the first settlements to the Roman Empire, tracing economies, settlements, social organization, trade, and ideology in the Neolithic and subsequent periods; Timothy Champion et al., Prehistoric Europe (1984), a comprehensive introduction; and Barry Cunliffe (ed.), The Oxford Illustrated Prehistory of Europe (1994), through the decline of the Roman Empire; on the Americas, Shirley Gorenstein (ed.), Prehispanic America (1974), a discussion of Paleo-Americans, Meso-Americans, and the rise of civilization in South America; Robert F. Spencer et al., The Native Americans, 2nd ed. (1977), a scholarly study of traditional North American Indian cultures; Jesse D. Jennings (ed.), Ancient North Americans (1983), and Ancient South Americans (1983); Brian M. Fagan, The Great Journey: The Peopling of Ancient America (1987), and Ancient North America (1991), for the general reader; and Jesse D. Jennings, Prehistory of North America, 3rd ed. (1989), a survey of the earliest cultures of North America; and on Oceania, J. Allen, J. Golson, and R. Jones (eds.), Sunda and Sahul: Prehistoric Studies in Southeast Asia, Melanesia, and Australia (1977), essays exploring biology, agriculture, ethnography, biogeography, and other aspects; J. Peter White, A Prehistory of Australia, New Guinea, and Sahul (1982), a scholarly overview; and Josephine Flood, Archaeology of the Dreamtime: The Story of Prehistoric Australia and Its People, rev. ed. (1990), for the general reader. The Editors of the Encyclopdia Britannica Africa Paleolithic The Paleolithic of Africa is characterized by a variety of stone-tool assemblages, some of which represent purely local developments while others are practically identical with materials from corresponding horizons in Europe. Geological investigations of the Late Cenozoic deposits of this continent indicate that, as the result of fluctuations in rainfall, the Pleistocene Epoch throughout most of Africa can be subdivided on the basis of a succession of pluvial and interpluvial stages. The pluvials, known as Kageran, Kamasian, Kanjeran, and Gamblian, are believed to represent the tropical and subtropical equivalents of the four major glacial stages of the Northern Hemisphere, but this has not yet been proved. The archaeological succession is well established in certain areas, although not in the continent as a whole. North Africa In this area, very crudely worked pebble tools have been reported from one site in Algeria in direct association with a Lower Pleistocene (Villafranchian) mammalian assemblage. Throughout Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and the Sahara region, Lower Paleolithic hand axes of both Abbevillian and Acheulean type, together with flake tools, have been found in great numbers. The geological evidence shows that the Sahara region was far less arid during Pleistocene times than it is at present. The Middle Paleolithic of both Levalloisian and Mousterian facies is very widespread in North Africa, and it apparently persisted as late as the second maximum of the Wrm glaciation in terms of the European sequence. A specialized Middle Paleolithic development, known as the Aterian, occurred there; it is characterized by tanged points made on flakes and flake blades. This was succeeded by two distinctive blade-tool complexesthe Capsian and Oranianwhich are more or less contemporary. Their main development took place during the time span of the European Mesolithic. The Capsian sites are all inland, whereas the Oranian has a coastal distribution. Both are microlithic tool complexes that persisted after the introduction of Neolithic traits into the area. Asia Paleolithic During the Paleolithic, two major culture provinces can be recognized in Asia, each of which has yielded a distinctive sequence. The first of these includes the Middle East, Central Asia (formerly Russian Turkistan), central Siberia, and India; throughout this vast region a developmental sequence has been reported that, in all its essential respects, is related to that of Europe as well as to that of Africa in the early stages. The second of these provinces is in the south and east, and it embraces Pakistan, Myanmar (Burma), Java, Malaya, Thailand, and China. There the characteristic implement types consist of choppers and chopping tools that are often made on pebbles. Hand-ax industries of Abbevilleo-Acheulean type are missing in southern and eastern Asia, together with the intimately associated prepared striking-platformtortoise-core, or Levallois, technique. There the pebble-tool tradition persisted to the very end of Paleolithic times uninfluenced by contemporary innovations characteristic of the western portion of the continent. Middle East In this area, especially in Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, a Lower Paleolithic development closely paralleling that of Europe is indicated by the widespread distribution of hand axes of Abbevillian and Acheulean type. Unfortunately, the majority of these finds are from open-air, unstratified sites that cannot be dated. A crude flake industry, reminiscent of the Tayacian of western Europe, has been reported from several cave sites. This is followed by a typical Upper Acheulean horizon in which there occur many developed hand axes of Micoquian type, a wide variety of flake implements, and the prepared striking-platformtortoise-core technique. The Levalloiso-Mousterian found in the next-younger horizon is associated with a series of Neanderthaloid burials at one of the Mt. Carmel Caves of Israel and at Shanidar Cave in northern Iraq. Next in the sequence comes an early Upper Paleolithic development, which is characterized by various types of blade and flake-blade tools, including points that recall the Chtelperron type. This is overlain by the Antelian (formerly Middle Aurignacian), which in turn is followed by the Atlitian and the Kebarian. These assemblages, together with the recently discovered Baradostian of northern Iraq, constitute specialized late Upper Paleolithic industries that preceded various Mesolithic developments in the Middle East. Oceania The archaeology of Oceania involves, for the most part, short time perspectives, because migrations within the open Pacific could have occurred only after the development of seagoing canoe navigation in Neolithic times. The exception is the New GuineaAustralia region, where the ancestors of the Australoid- and Negritoid-type peoples evidently arrived in Paleolithic times. The long-term history of the Oceanic peoples, especially the Polynesians, has been the subject of many theories. Scholars reject ideas involving a lost continent (e.g., Lemuria, Mu) or direct relations with the Middle East (e.g., the Ten Lost Tribes, migrations of Children of the Sun from Egypt), early India (e.g., Indus ValleyEaster Island connections), or Japan (e.g., supposed language relations). They also insist that, while eastern-voyaging Polynesians could well have reached the American continent and some may have found their way back into the islands, none of the various theories claiming that Oceanic peoples had their homelands in North or South America is scientifically credible (e.g., E. Rout's imaginative Maori Symbolism, T. Heyerdahl's thesis for the Kon Tiki voyage). Similarly, they reject theories explaining the Pre-Columbian civilizations on the American continent in terms of influences by way of the tropical Pacific islands from Asia. Most archaeological as well as racial, linguistic, and ethnological evidence continues to support the long-standing hypothesis of the settlement of Oceania by a succession of migrants from the Southeast Asia region, with at most very minor contacts eastward to America. The archaeological record begins when early Homo sapiens populations, comparable with the fossils of Wadjak in Java, Aitape in New Guinea, and Keilor and others in Australia, were moving eastward. This apparently occurred during the Fourth Glacial Epoch, when sea levels were lower, land pathways perhaps more uplifted, and inter-island channels narrower than now. Early man could migrate with lessened water obstructions from the Asiatic continental platform (Sunda Shelf) through the intermediate CelebesMoluccaLesser Sunda zones on to the Australian continental platform (Sahul, or Papuan, Shelf). Some scholars suggest such movements even during the Third Glacial, but this seems dubious. Core tools typologically Paleolithic and sometimes heavily patinated occur in both Southeast Asia and Australia, and crude flake tools often of microlithic size are found in the intermediate zones (e.g., Timor) as well. Yet all these are surface finds or of dubious age when at subsurface levels. Doubtless most early groups moved, in glacial times, near shorelines now inundated, though valleys suitable for inland hunting or locally uplifted coasts might yield finds. The vital western New Guinea region, much of which is swampy and lacking stone, has had little systematic study. The hypothetical picture has the isolated Australian and Tasmanian populations developing along regional and local lines characteristic of their later archaeological perspectives: generally Paleolithic, but with some Neolithic and also recent Malay trading contacts along the northern coasts. The New Guinea region was penetrated by canoe-migrating peoples carrying Neolithic elements that come to dominate the picture. The evidence suggests that the first comers were dry gardeners living in semi-sedentary hamlets, with crude stone tools including adzes and axes of oval cross section; such shifting cultivators are found still from Southeast Asia to the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu (New Hebrides). The Melanesian areas were also penetrated, apparently later and especially along the coasts, by village-living peoples with more sedentary cultivation; stone construction in various forms; finer tools, including quadrilateral cross-section types; stone pestles and mortars; pottery; and other later Neolithic elements. In New Guinea, as shown by A. Riesenfeld, these influences appeared to arrive by way of the northeastern coast from the outer fringe of islands, perhaps the Bismarcks, Admiralties, and others. Unhappily, archaeological work in all these Melanesian zones has been limited to sporadic surface collecting and recording and to occasional tools turned up by garden workers or miners; time-sequence definitions are out of the question except as they may be inferred from Neolithic chronology in Southeast Asia. By contrast, archaeological work in Polynesia and some zones of Micronesia is considerably more advanced. For northwestern Micronesia a vital clue is a radiocarbon dating of approximately 1527 BC from a stratified deposit excavated in the Marianas. Collateral evidence suggests that occupation may go back to 2000 BC. The Mariana latte sites (rows of capped stone pillars, probably posts of important houses), together with stone mortars, pottery, and other artifacts, suggest migrations from the Philippines area in late Neolithic times. Farther east, the low coral islands of the Carolines, Marshalls, and Gilberts yield limited artifacts of shell, bone, and coral rock capable of some comparative study. The few high islands in this part of Micronesia, however, have extensive stone construction and other more diversified elements. Yap, for example, has stone ceremonial platforms, stepped tombs, stone money, pottery, etc. Ponape's most spectacular site, the Venice called Metalanim, has several acres of stone-faced islands and canals, the principal structure being a rectangular enclosure with double walls up to 40 feet high containing a central stepped tomb and also vault tombs. A much smaller Venice exists on Kosrae (formerly Kusaie), most easterly of the Carolines. Scholars generally attribute such elaborations of the basic stonework elements, in Polynesia as well as Micronesia, to local creativity rather than undemonstrated outside influences. Micronesia and Polynesia may usefully be treated as a continuous zone. With them, too, may justifiably be placed the Fiji zone of eastern Melanesia, the most easterly limit of the potter's craft. In compiling known data on stonework in this whole area, one may distinguish two great types: one to the west (Micronesia, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa areas), characterized by ceremonial courts, perhaps with god houses, and platform tombs often of stepped types; the other to the east (Societies, Hawaii, New Zealand, and islands eastward to Easter Island), characterized by temple structures, usually with altars, standing stones probably as backrests for gods and priests in the rituals, and cist burials within the structures. From simpler shrines having a few standing stones (e.g., inland Tahiti, New Zealand, small, outlying Hawaiian islands), the Polynesian temple became elaborated into various local forms including usually larger-size and megalithic stonework. In Hawaii wooden posts or images generally replaced standing stones. In the Tuamotus huge coralline slabs were often used, and in the Marquesas the stones were sometimes carved in human (or god) form. Some specialists consider that such comparative study solves the mystery of the Easter Island statues. Rather than being relics of some lost continent or pre-Polynesian migration, they follow this last pattern of carved figures, standing on altar platforms (called by the standard Polynesian name ahu) in which there are cist burials. Apparently a local inventive urge toward large size, combined with the presence of easily worked volcanic tuff, produced this one of the many variants of the Polynesian place of worship. Such local constructions, however, together with other more spectacular elements, such as widely scattered petroglyphs and a dubiously old script on Easter Island, have less significance for historical reconstruction than detailed study of variability in minor artifacts. Theories of contacts with the American continent must be treated with caution so far as they lean on gross parallels such as stone images or art resemblances; the most concrete evidence has been the presence of the sweet potato, apparently an American plant, in Oceania in prehistoric times. Felix M. Keesing The Americas The prehistoric sequence in the New World shares many essential developmental features with the Old World and provides a test for generalizations about cultural development based upon Old World materials. In the New World there is evidence for an early horizon of primitive food collectors, followed by an increasing specialization of food collecting based primarily upon differences in localized resources. These specialized collectors were followed by a tradition of food production independent of the Old World. With food production came gradual increases in centres of population; villages were succeeded by towns and finally by centres of urban civilizations, which at the time of European contact were comparable to the ancient civilizations of the Middle East. The absence of a suitable fossil record and of cultural remains from Early and Middle Pleistocene deposits in the New World have led prehistorians to look to the Old World as the ultimate source of the diverse populations of American Indians found in the Western Hemisphere by the early European explorers. Present knowledge of Pleistocene glaciations and of accompanying alterations in sea level indicates that the most probable route of entry for man from the Old World was via a land bridge between Alaska and Siberia, crossing what is now the Bering Strait. It appears that a dry-land crossing of this area was possible during periods of continental glaciation, until about 10,000 years ago. The subsequent flooding of this region has hidden whatever traces these early migrants may have left of their arrival on the threshold of the American continents, and it is necessary to look to the interior of North America for evidence of their presence. Although these early horizons of American prehistory are little known, a few sites in central Mexico have cultural remains or other possible evidences of man in a context suggesting occupation as early as 20,000 years ago. At no site in this early context are there any types of implements distinctive enough to be recognized in a context of crudely chipped stone tools from later horizons. Early cultures The earliest well-defined cultures in the New World have been placed by radiocarbon dating at about 9000 to 10,000 BC. At this period, two distinct traditions in North America are known: the Paleo-Indian big-game hunters of the Great Plains and eastern North America, and the Desert-culture peoples of the western basinrange region.

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