Mesolithic period

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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 ?
A macrofracture study of bone points used in experimental hunting with reference to the South African Middle Stone Age.
These interpretations could contribute to views that people living in southern Africa were not behaviourally or cognitively 'fully modern' before about 50 000 years ago (Ambrose & Lorenz 1990; Klein 2001), or that the transition to 'modern human technology' was marked by the change from the Middle Stone Age to the Later Stone Age (e.
According to a report in the Derry Journal, the discovery was made in the Baylet area of Inch Island and is believed to date from the Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age, which in Ireland commenced about 7000 BC and continued until 4000 BC.
For much of the twentieth century, the prevailing view among archaeologists was that Anatomically Modern Humans (AMHs) associated with Upper Palaeolithic (UP) and Late Stone Age (LSA) cultures could be considered behaviourally modern, whereas archaic Homo sapiens and Neanderthal populations, associated with Middle Stone Age (MSA) and Middle Palaeolithic (MP) cultures, could not.
Later, blades were thought to have emerged in the Middle Stone Age, which began about 200,000 years ago when modern humans arose in Africa and invented a new industry of more sophisticated stone tools.
Eventually, however, it gave way to the Middle Stone Age, which featured smaller and more sophisticated blades and spearheads.
Transitions before the Transition: Evolution and Stability in the Middle Paleolithic and Middle Stone Age.
In many parts of the world, archaeologists see a leap around 300,000 years ago in Stone Age technology from the large and crude hand-axes and picks of the so-called Acheulean period to the more delicate and diverse points and blades of the Middle Stone Age.
One might add that the possibility of a similar process of the incorporation of difference in the contemporaneous transition from the Early to the Middle Stone Age in Africa might be a fruitful matter for future research.
Nassarius kraussianus Shell Beads from Blombos Cave: Evidence for Symbolic Behaviour in the Middle Stone Age.
Technologically, the Early Middle Stone Age (MSA) exhibits a generalised stone industry occasionally (although incorrectly) called Mousterian or Middle Palaeolithic for its apparent similarities with Eurasian lithic industries (for a discussion on the use of African vs.

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