Mesolithic period

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Related to Mesolithic period: Mesolithic Age, Neolithic Period, Paleolithic period

Mesolithic period

(mĕz'əlĭth`ĭk) or

Middle Stone Age,

period in human development between the end of the Paleolithic periodPaleolithic period
or Old Stone Age,
the earliest period of human development and the longest phase of mankind's history. It is approximately coextensive with the Pleistocene geologic epoch, beginning about 2 million years ago and ending in various places between
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 and the beginning of the Neolithic periodNeolithic period
or New Stone Age.
The term neolithic is used, especially in archaeology and anthropology, to designate a stage of cultural evolution or technological development characterized by the use of stone tools, the existence of settled villages largely
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. It began with the end of the last glacial period over 10,000 years ago and evolved into the Neolithic period; this change involved the gradual domestication of plants and animals and the formation of settled communities at various times and places. While Mesolithic cultures lasted in Europe until almost 3000 B.C., Neolithic communities developed in the Middle East between 9000 and 6000 B.C. Mesolithic cultures represent a wide variety of hunting, fishing, and food gathering techniques. This variety may be the result of adaptations to changed ecological conditions associated with the retreat of glaciers, the growth of forests in Europe and deserts in N Africa, and the disappearance of the large game of the Ice Age. Characteristic of the period were hunting and fishing settlements along rivers and on lake shores, where fish and mollusks were abundant. Microliths, the typical stone implements of the Mesolithic period, are smaller and more delicate than those of the late Paleolithic period. Pottery and the use of the bow developed, although their presence in Mesolithic cultures may only indicate contact with early Neolithic peoples. The Azilian culture, which was centered in the Pyrenees region but spread to Switzerland, Belgium, and Scotland, was one of the earliest representatives of Mesolithic culture in Europe. The Azilian was followed by the Tardenoisian culture, which covered much of Europe; most of these settlements are found on dunes or sandy areas. The Maglemosian, named for a site in Denmark, is found in the Baltic region and N England. It occurs in the middle of the Mesolithic period. It is there that hafted axes, an improvement over the Paleolithic hand axe, and bone tools are found. The Ertebolle culture, also named for a site in Denmark, spans most of the late Mesolithic. It is also known as the kitchen-midden culture for the large deposits of mollusk shells found around the settlements. Other late Mesolithic cultures are the Campignian and Asturian, both of which may have had Neolithic contacts. The Mesolithic period in other areas is represented by the Natufian in the Middle East, the Badarian and Gerzean in Egypt, and the Capsian in N Africa. The Natufian culture provides the earliest evidence of an evolution from a Mesolithic to a Neolithic way of life.


See study by J. G. D. Clark (1953, repr. 1970).

References in periodicals archive ?
La Brana 1, the name used to baptize a 7,000 years old individual from the Mesolithic Period, whose remains were recovered at La Brana-Arintero site in Valdelugueros (LeEaAn, Spain), had blue eyes and dark skin.
By beginning his chronological survey of sea fishing in Ireland in the Mesolithic period, Mac Laughlin traces its underdevelopment.
Experts found the uplands on Moel Famau were used for hunting in the Mesolithic period (8000-4000BC).
The Cave of the Cyclops on the Greek island of Youra has been used by humans at least since the Mesolithic period.
Previous investigations have revealed Roman material from the castle site, and excavations in June 2004 revealed that the site was occupied as far back as the Mesolithic period, about 5,000 years ago.
The three abstract squares found in Long Hole cave in Cheddar, Somerset, are believed to date back 10,000 years to the Mesolithic Period.
The change came suddenly at the beginning of the Neolithic period and for the preceding 3,800 years, during the Mesolithic period, Britons thrived on fish suppers.
They belonged to the Mesolithic period or Middle Stone Age - 10,000 to 5,000 years ago - when hunter gatherers lived along the prehistoric shore line of the North East.
Consultant archaeologist Paul Robins is certain the site dates from the Mesolithic Period from 8000BC to 4000BC, the age which heralded the re-emergence of man at the end of the ice age.
Long-distance routes across the Alps during the Mesolithic period are considered by Kompatscher & Kompatscher.
We have been able to identify some recognisable timbers from the Mesolithic period.
During the Mesolithic period the moors was a hunting ground described as the hunters' larder because they would encourage animals onto the land and shoot them with arrows and spears.