Stone Age

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Stone Age:

see 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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; Mesolithic periodMesolithic period
or Middle Stone Age,
period in human development between the end of the Paleolithic period and the beginning of the Neolithic period. It began with the end of the last glacial period over 10,000 years ago and evolved into the Neolithic period; this
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; 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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Stone Age

The earliest known period of human culture, characterized by the use of stone tools and weapons.
Illustrated Dictionary of Architecture Copyright © 2012, 2002, 1998 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Stone Age


a cultural-historical period in the development of man during which the principal tools and weapons were primarily fashioned from stone and there was no working of metal. Wood and bone were also used. In the late stage of the Stone Age the working of clay, from which vessels were made, became widespread. The Stone Age was superseded by the Bronze Age after a transitional period known as the Aeneolithic. The Stone Age coincides with the greater part of the epoch of the primitive communal system and encompasses the time beginning with man’s emergence from the animal state (about 1.8 million years ago) and ending with the widespread use of the first metals (about 8, 000 years ago in the ancient East and about 6, 000-7, 000 years ago in Europe).

The Stone Age is divided into the Old Stone Age, or Paleolithic, and the New Stone Age, or Neolithic. The Paleolithic is the epoch of the existence of fossil man and belongs to the far-removed time when the earth’s climate, flora, and fauna differed greatly from those of modern times. Paleolithic man used nothing but chipped-stone tools and had no knowledge of polished-stone tools or clay pottery. He hunted and gathered his food (plants, mollusks). Fishing was beginning to emerge, and farming and stock raising were unknown. Neolithic man already lived in modern climatic conditions, surrounded by contemporary flora and fauna. Along with chipped-stone tools, there were polished and perforated stone tools and clay pottery in this period. Neolithic man began to engage in primitive farming using the hoe and to breed domestic animals, in addition to hunting, gathering, and fishing. The transitional period between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic is called the Mesolithic.

The Paleolithic is divided into the Lower Paleolithic (Early Paleolithic; between 1.8 million and 35, 000 years ago) and the Upper Paleolithic (Late Paleolithic; between 35, 000 and 10, 000 years ago). The Lower Paleolithic is divided into the following archaeological epochs (cultures): Pre-Chellean (seePEBBLE CULTURE), Chellean (Abbevillian), Acheulean, and Mousterian. Many archaeologists place the Mousterian epoch (100, 000 to 35, 000 years ago) in a special period called the Middle Paleolithic.

The most ancient pre-Chellean stone tools were pebbles flaked on one end and chips broken from such pebbles. The type tools of the Chellean and Acheulean consist of coups de poing (hand axes), pieces of stone flaked on both sides and rounded on one end and pointed on the other; crude chopping implements (chopper-chopping tools) with less regular outlines than the coups de poing; and rectangular ax-like implements (cleavers) and massive chips broken from the cores (nuclei). The makers of the pre-Chellean and Acheulean tools belonged to the type Archan-thropinae {Pithecanthropus, Sinanthropus, and the Heidelberg man) and possibly to an even more primitive type {Homo habiiis, Prezinjanthropus). Warm climatic conditions prevailed, and man lived to the south of 50° N lat. (a large part of Africa, southern Europe, and southern Asia).

In the Mousterian epoch the stone chips became more refined because they were flaked from specially prepared disc-shaped or tortoise-shaped cores (the Levallois flake technique). The chips were fashioned into various types of sidescrapers, triangular points, knives, perforators, small hand axes, and so on. The use of bone (small anvils, retouchers, and points) became common as did the use of fire. The onset of colder weather forced man to settle more frequently in caves and to expand his territories. Burials testify to the emergence of primitive religious beliefs. The people of the Mousterian belonged to the type Paleoanthropinae (Neanderthal man). In Europe they generally lived under the severe climatic conditions of the beginning of the Wiirm glaciation and were contemporaries of the mammoths, woolly rhinoceros, and cave bears. Local differences in cultures, which are identified by the tools they made, have been established for the Lower Paleolithic.

During the Upper Paleolithic the human being of the modern physical type developed {Neoanthropus, Homo sapiens —the Cro-Magnon man, the Grimaldi man, and others). Upper Paleolithic man settled far more widely than Neanderthal man, moving into Siberia, America, and Australia.

Upper Paleolithic man typically used prismatic cores from which he broke off elongated flakes to make general end scrapers, points, gravers (burins), awls, and adzes. Articles made of bones of mammoth, antlers, and tusks appeared, such as awls, eyed needles, small shovels, picks, and so on. Man began to assume a settled way of life. Along with cave dwellings, permanent dwellings—pit houses and houses built directly on the ground— became widespread. There were large communal dwellings with several hearths as well as small dwellings (Gagarino, Kostenki, Pushkari, Buret’, MaFta, Dolnì Vestonice, Pensevan). In their construction man used the skulls, large bones, and tusks of mammoths, the antlers of reindeer, wood, and animal hides. Dwellings often formed entire communities. Hunting reached a higher level of development. Representational art appeared, often characterized by striking realism: sculptured images of animals and nude women made of mammoth tusks, stone, and sometimes of clay (Kostenki I, the Avdeevo site, Gagarino, Dolnì Vestonice, Willendorf, Brassempouy); images of animals and fish engraved on bone and rock; engraved and painted symbolic geometric designs, such as zigzags, rhombuses, meanders, and wavy lines (Mezin campsite, Pǐedmosti); and engraved and painted (monochrome and polychrome) symbols and representations of animals and sometimes of people on the walls and ceilings of caves (Altamira, Lascaux). Paleolithic art was apparently partially connected with female cults of the epoch of the matriarchal clan and with hunting magic and totemism. There were various types of burials with the body in contracted position or in sitting position, sometimes colored with pigment; various articles were buried with the dead.

There were several large cultural regions as well as a variety of smaller cultures in the Upper Paleolithic: the Perigordian, Aurignacian, Solutrean, and La Madeleine, among other cultures, in Western Europe and the Szelebian and other cultures in Central Europe.

The transition from the Upper Paleolithic to the Mesolithic coincided with the final receding of glaciation and the general establishment of the modern climate. Radiocarbon dating dates the European Mesolithic at 10, 000-7, 000 years ago; in northern Europe the Mesolithic continued until 6, 000-5, 000 years ago. The Mesolithic in the Near East was 12, 000-9, 000 years ago. The Mesolithic cultures include the Azilian culture, the Tar-denoisian culture, the Maglemosian culture, the Erteb0lle culture, and the Hoa Binh culture. The Mesolithic is characterized by the use of microliths—miniature stone implements of geometric shape (trapezoids, crescents, and triangles) set in wooden and bone mountings—as well as such flaked chopping tools as axes, adzes, and picks. The bow and arrow became common. The dog, which may have been domesticated already iri the Upper Paleolithic, was widely used during the Mesolithic.

The most important characteristic of the Neolithic was the transition from the use of nature’s finished products (obtained by hunting, fishing, and gathering) to the production of the vitally necessary products, although the direct use of natural products continued to be important in man’s economic activity. Man began to cultivate crops, and stock raising appeared. Some researchers call the decisive changes that occurred in the economy with the transition to stock raising and farming the “Neolithic revolution.” The defining elements of Neolithic culture were clay vessels (pottery) modeled by hand without a potter’s wheel; stone axes, hammers, adzes, chisels, and hoes (during their production the rocks were sawed, polished, and bored); flint daggers, knives, arrowheads, lance tips, and sickles, which were made by the method of pressure flaking; microlithic and chopping tools, which had already appeared during the Mesolithic; and various kinds of articles made of bone and antler (fish hooks, harpoons, hoe tips, chisels) and wood (hollowed-out canoes, oars, skis, sleighs, and various kinds of handles). Flint workshops spread; at the end of the Neolithic there were even mines to extract flint and, in connection with this, intertribal exchange of raw material. Primitive weaving and spinning appeared. Typical of Neolithic art were various types of impressed and drawn ornamentation on pottery; clay, bone, and stone figurines of people and animals; and painted, engraved, and hollowed-out cave art (petroglyphs). The burial ritual became more complex, and burial structures were constructed. The unevenness of cultural development and the unique features in various local areas became more pronounced during the Neolithic. There were a large number of differing Neolithic cultures. The tribes of different countries went through the Neolithic stage at different times. Many of the Neolithic remains in Europe and Asia date between the sixth and third millennia B.C.

Neolithic culture developed most rapidly in the countries of the Near East, where the earliest farming and domestic livestock breeding began. The bearers of the Natufian culture of Palestine, dating from the Mesolithic (ninth-eighth millennium B.C.), gathered wild-growing cereals extensively and possibly attempted to cultivate them. Along with microliths, sickles with flint blades and stone mortars are also encountered here. In the ninth-eighth millennium B.C. primitive farming and livestock raising also began developing in northern Iraq. The settled farming communities of Jericho in Jordan, Jarmo in northern Iraq, and Catal Huyiik in southern Turkey date from the seventh-sixth millennium B.C. They are characterized by the appearance of sanctuaries and fortifications, often of considerable size. More developed Neolithic farming cultures were widespread in Iraq and Iran in the sixth-fifth millennium B.C.; they had pisé buildings, decorated pottery, and female statuettes. In the fifth-fourth millennium B.C. farming tribes of the developed Neolithic inhabited Egypt.

The development of Neolithic culture in Europe progressed on a local basis but under the strong influence of the cultures of the Mediterranean and Near East, from where the most important cultivated crops and some species of domestic animals penetrated into Europe. England and France in the Neolithic period and in the early Bronze Age were inhabited by farming and stock-raising tribes, who constructed megalithic structures from huge blocks of stone. Pile dwellings were common in Switzerland and adjacent areas (where they are known as lake dwellings) during the Neolithic period and the early Bronze Age; their inhabitants primarily engaged in stock raising and farming as well as in fishing and hunting. During the Neolithic the Danubian farming cultures in Central Europe took shape characterized by pottery with meander decorations. Tribes of Neolithic hunters and fishermen lived in northern Scandinavia at the same time and up to the second millennium B.C.

USSR. The oldest authentic remains of the Stone Age are from Acheulean times and date from the epoch preceding the Riss (Dnieper) glaciation. They have been found in the Caucasus, in the vicinity of the Sea of Azov, in the Dnestr Region, in Middle Asia, and in Kazakhstan. Finds have included chips, coups de poing, and choppers (crude cutting tools). Remains of Acheulean hunting encampments have been unearthed in the Kudaro, Tsonskaia, and Azykh caves in the Caucasus. Mousterian sites have been found further north. Burial sites of Neanderthal man have been found in the Kiik-Koba Grotto in the Crimea and in the Teshik-Tash Grotto in Uzbekistan, and a Neanthropic burial site has been found in the Starosel’e Grotto in the Crimea. Remains of a permanent Mousterian dwelling have been found in the Molodova I site on the Dnestr River.

Upper Paleolithic settling in the USSR was even more widespread. Successive stages have been traced in the development of the Upper Paleolithic in different parts of the USSR and also of the Upper Paleolithic cultures, for example, the Kostenki-Sun-gir’, Kostenki-Avdeevo, Mezin, and other cultures on the Russian Plain and the Mal’ta, Afontovo, and other cultures in Siberia. Numerous multilevel Upper Paleolithic settlements have been excavated on the Dnestr (Babin, Voronovitsa, Molodova V). Another region known for the many Upper Paleolithic settlements with remains of various types of dwellings and examples of art is the basin of the Desna and Südost’ rivers (Mezin, Pushkari, Eliseevichi, Iudinovo). A third such region is the villages of Kostenki and Borshevo on the Don River, where more than 20 Upper Paleolithic sites have been found, including a number of multilevel ones, with remains of dwellings, numerous works of art, and four burials. The Sungir’ site on the Kliaz’ma River, where several burials have been unearthed, stands by itself. The Medvezh’ia Cave and the Byzovaia site on the Pechora River (Komi ASSR) are among the northernmost Paleolithic remains in the world. The Kapova Cave in the southern Urals contains drawings of mammoths on the walls. The caves of Georgia and Azerbaijan help trace the development, one that differed from that on the Russian Plain, of Upper Paleolithic cultures through a number of stages—from remains of the early Upper Paleolithic, characterized by significant numbers of Mousterian triangular points, to remains of the end of the Upper Paleolithic, characterized by numerous microliths.The Samarkand site is an important Upper Paleolithic settlement in Middle Asia. In Siberia, a large number of Upper Paleolithic sites are known on the Enisei River (Afontova Gora, Kokorevo), in the basin of the Angara and Belaia rivers (Mal’ta, Buret’), in Transbaikalia, and in the Altai Mountains. Upper Paleolithic remains have also been found in the Lena and Aldan river basins and on Kamchatka.

The Neolithic is represented by numerous cultures. Some of them belong to ancient farming tribes and some, to primitive fishermen and hunters. The remains of the Bug and other cultures of the Right-bank Ukraine and of Moldavia (fifth-third millennia B.C.), the settlements of Transcaucasia (Shulaveri, Odishi, Kistrik), and the settlements of the Dzheitun type in southern Turkmenia, which resemble the settlements of Neolithic farmers in Iran, all belong to the farming Neolithic. Neolithic hunting and fishing cultures also existed in the fifth-third millennia B.C. in the south—in the vicinity of the Sea of Azov, in the northern Caucasus, and in Middle Asia (Kel’teminar culture). But they were particularly widespread during the fourth-second millennia B.C. in the north, in the forest zone from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean. Many Neolithic hunting and fishing cultures, most of which were characterized by particular types of pottery decorated with ornament of pit-and-comb impressions and prick-and-comb impressions are represented along the shores of Lakes Ladoga and Onega and the White Sea (in some places cave drawings and petroglyphs related to these cultures are also encountered), on the upper Volga, and between the Volga and Oka rivers. In the Kama Region, the forest-steppe Ukraine, and Western and Eastern Siberia, pottery decorated with comb impressions and prick-and-comb impressions were common. Other types of Neolithic pottery were represented in the Primor’e and on the island of Sakhalin.

History of the study of the Stone Age. In the first century B.C., Lucretius surmised that the age of the use of metals had been preceded by a time when stones served as weapons. In 1836 the Danish archaeologist C. J. Thomsen identified three cultural-historical epochs (the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age) from archaeological data. The existence of Paleolithic fossil man was proved in the 1840’s-1850’s by the French archaeologist Boucher de Perthes in the course of his struggle against reactionary religious scholarship. In the 1860’s the British scientist J. Lubbock divided the Stone Age into the Paleolithic and Neolithic, and the French archaeologist G. de Mortillet wrote comprehensive works on the Stone Age and developed a more detailed periodization (the Chellean, Mousterian, and other epochs). The Mesolithic kitchen middens in Denmark, Neolithic lake dwellings in Switzerland, and numerous Paleolithic and Neolithic caves and sites in Europe and Asia were investigated in the second half of the 19th century. At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century Paleolithic drawings were discovered in the caves of southern France and northern Spain.

In the second half of the 19th century the study of the Stone Age was closely connected with Darwinian ideas and with progressive, although historically limited, evolutionism. In the first half of the 20th century bourgeois investigators of the Stone Age (prehistoric archaeology, prehistory, and paleoethnology) considerably refined the methods of archaeological work; accumulated numerous new factual material that did not fit within the framework of old, simplified schemes; and revealed the diversity of Stone Age cultures and the complexity of their development. At the same time, antihistorical doctrines related to the theory of cultural cycles, to the theory of migrations, and sometimes directly to reactionary racism became widespread. Progressive bourgeois scholars and scientists who sought to trace the development of primitive man and man’s economy as a regular process opposed these reactionary conceptions.

Among the major achievements of foreign researchers in the first half of the 20th century are the publication of a number of general manuals, reference books, and encyclopedias on the Stone Age in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America (the French scientists and scholars J. Dechelette and R. Vaufrey, the German M. Ebert, the British J. D. Clark, V. G. Childe, H. M. Wormington) and the elimination of vast gaps on archaeological maps. Another major achievement has been the discovery and investigation of numerous Stone Age remains in the countries of Europe (the Czech scientists and scholars K. Absolon, B.Klima, F. Prošek, and J. Neustupny; the Hungarian L. Vertes; the Rumanian C. Nicolaescu-Propsor; the YugoslavsS. Brodar and A. Benac; the Poles L. Sawicki and S. Krukow-ski; the German A. Rust; the Spaniard L. Pericot-Garcia), inAfrica (the British scientist L. Leakey, the French scientist C.Arambourg), in the Middle East (the British scholars D.Garrod, J. Mellaart, and K. Kenyon; the AmericansR. Braidwood and R. Solecki), in India (H. D. Sankalia, B. B.Lai), in China (Chia Lan-p’o, P’ei Wen-chung), in SoutheastAsia (the French scholar H. Mansuy, the Dutchman H. vanHeekeren), and in America (A. Kroeber, R. Reiney).

Excavation techniques have been improved significantly, the publication of archaeological documents has increased, and the comprehensive investigation of ancient settlements by archaeologists, geologists, paleozoologists, and paleobotanists has become common. The radiocarbon method of dating and the statistical method of studying stone tools have become widely used, and generalized works devoted to the art of the Stone Age have been compiled (the Frenchmen H. Breuil and A. Leroi-Gourhan, the Italian P. Graziosi).

In Russia a number of Paleolithic and Neolithic sites were studied in the 1870’s-1890’s by A. S. Uvarov, I. S. Poliakov, K. S. Merezhkovskii, V. B. Antonovich, and V. V. Khvoika. The first two decades of the 20th century were marked by generalizing work on the Stone Age. In addition, excavations of Paleolithic and Neolithic settlements were carried out on a highly sophisticated level for the time (enlisting the support of geologists and zoologists) by V. A. Gorodtsov, A. A. Spitsyn, F. K. Volkov, and P. P. Efimenko.

After the October Socialist Revolution, research on the Stone Age became extensive in the USSR. In 1917 there were 12 known Paleolithic sites in the country; in the early 1970’s there were more than 1,000. For the first time, Paleolithic remains were discovered in Byelorussia (K. M. Polikarpovich); Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia (G. K. Nioradze, S. N. Zamiatnin, M. Z. Panichkina, M. M. Guseinov, L. N. Solov’ev); Middle Asia (A. P. Okladnikov, D. N. Lev, V. A. Ranov, Kh. A. Al-pysbaev); and the Urals (M. V. Talitskii). Numerous new Paleolithic remains were discovered and investigated in the Crimea, on the Russian Plain, and in Siberia (P. P. Efimenko, M. V. Voevodskii, G. A. Bonch-Osmolovskii, M. Ia. Rudinskii, G. P. Sosnovskii, A. P. Okladnikov, M. M. Gerasimov, S. N. Bibikov, A. P. Chernysh, A. N. Rogachev, O. N. Bader, A. A. For-mozov, I. G. Shovkoplias, P. I. Boriskovskii), as well as in Georgia (N. Z. Berdzenishvili, A. N. Kalandadze, D. M. Tu-shabramishvili, V. P. Liubin). The northernmost Paleolithic remains in the world were discovered on the Pechora and Lena rivers, in the Aldan River basin, and on Kamchatka (V. A. Kanivets, N. N. Dikov).

Methods for excavating Paleolithic settlements were developed, which made it possible to establish the existence of settled life and permanent dwellings in the Paleolithic. Methods were developed for restoring the functions of primitive tools from traces of their use (S. A. Semenov). The historical changes that occurred in the Paleolithic were described: the development of the primitive herd and the matriarchal clan system. Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic cultures and their interrelations were established. Numerous remains of Paleolithic art were found and generalizing works devoted to them were compiled (S. N. Zamiatnin, Z. A. Abramova). Generalizing works were compiled on the chronology, periodization, and historical description of the Neolithic remains of numerous regions, the identification of Neolithic cultures and their interrelations, and the development of Neolithic technology (V. A. Gorodtsov, B. S. Zhukov, M. V. Voevodskii, A. Ia. Briusov, M. E. Foss, A. P. Okladnikov, V. N. Chernetsov, N. N. Gurina, O. N. Bader, D. A. Krainov, V. N. Danilenko, D. Ia. Telegin, V. M. Masson). Neolithic artistic remains, the cave drawings of the northwestern USSR, the Azov Region, and Siberia, were studied (V. I. Ravdonikas, M. Ia. Rudinskii).

Soviet investigators of the Stone Age have done a great deal of work on exposing the antihistorical conceptions of reactionary bourgeois scientists and scholars and on describing and interpreting Paleolithic and Neolithic remains. Armed with the methodology of dialectical and historical materialism, they have criticized the attempts of many bourgeois investigators (especially in France) to include the study of the Stone Age among the natural sciences and to consider the development of Stone Age cultures as a biological process, as well as their attempts to devise a special science of “paleoethnology” for studying the Stone Age. This field would supposedly occupy an intermediate position between biology and the social sciences. At the same time, Soviet investigators oppose the empiricism of those bourgeois archaeologists who reduce the tasks of studying the Paleolithic and Neolithic remains to nothing more than a careful description of them and the analysis of objects and their groups while ignoring the natural relationship between material culture and social relationships and their consistent, regular development.

For Soviet investigators, Stone Age remains are not an end in themselves but rather a source for studying the early stages of the history of the primitive communal system. They are especially implacable in their opposition to bourgeois idealistic and racist theories, which are widespread among Stone Age specialists in the United States, Great Britain, and other capitalist countries. These theories erroneously interpret, and sometimes falsify, archaeological data on the Stone Age to confirm allegations that there is a division between chosen and nonchosen peoples, that some particular countries and peoples are inevitably backward, and that wars and conquests have a beneficial effect in human history. Soviet investigators of the Stone Age have demonstrated that the early stages of world history and the history of primitive culture were a process in which all peoples, large and small, participated and to which they all contributed.


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Stone Age

a period in human culture identified by the use of stone implements and usually divided into the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic stages
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005

Stone Age

In computer folklore, an ill-defined period from ENIAC (ca. 1943) to the mid-1950s; the great age of electromechanical dinosaurs. Sometimes used for the entire period up to 1960-61 (see Iron Age); however, it is more descriptive to characterise the latter period in terms of a "Bronze Age" era of transistor-logic, pre-ferrite core memory machines with drum or CRT mass storage (as opposed to just mercury delay lines and/or relays).

More generally, the term is used pejoratively for ancient hardware or software, even by survivors from the Stone Age.
This article is provided by FOLDOC - Free Online Dictionary of Computing (
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Mr Knight said: "There is serious scientific work being done at the moment which suggests these stone-age people could have used their stone structures for conscious communication.