Stone Age

Ġgantija temples in Gozo, Malta, some of the world's oldest free-standing structures
Modern Awash River, Ethiopia, descendant of the Palaeo-Awash, source of the sediments in which the oldest Stone Age tools have been found
Obsidian projectile point
A variety of stone tools
Time series plot of temperature over the previous 5 million years
This is a Mode 1, or Oldowan, stone tool from the western Sahara.
An Acheulean tool, not worked over the entire surface
A Biface (trihedral) from Amar Merdeg at Zagros foothill, Ilam, National Museum of Iran
Gwion Gwion rock paintings found in the north-west Kimberley region of Western Australia.
Skara Brae, Scotland. Europe's most complete Neolithic village
Acheulean biface from Lake Langano area, Ethiopia.
Stone Knife, Early Neolithic period, Manchurian Culture
Petroglyph in Sydney, Australia.
Rock painting at Bhimbetka, India, a World Heritage Site
Poulnabrone dolmen in County Clare, Ireland
Monte Bubbonia dolmen (single-chambered tomb), Sicily
Imaginative depiction of the Stone Age, by Viktor Vasnetsov

Broad prehistoric period during which stone was widely used to make tools with an edge, a point, or a percussion surface.

- Stone Age
Ġgantija temples in Gozo, Malta, some of the world's oldest free-standing structures

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Neolithic wall painting from Tell Bouqras at the Deir ez-Zor Museum, Syria

Neolithic

Neolithic wall painting from Tell Bouqras at the Deir ez-Zor Museum, Syria
Approximate centers of origin of agriculture in the Neolithic revolution and its spread in prehistory: the Fertile Crescent (11,000 BP), the Yangtze and Yellow River basins (9,000 BP) and the New Guinea Highlands (9,000–6,000 BP), Central Mexico (5,000–4,000 BP), Northern South America (5,000–4,000 BP), sub-Saharan Africa (5,000–4,000 BP, exact location unknown), eastern North America (4,000–3,000 BP).
An array of Neolithic artifacts, including bracelets, axe heads, chisels, and polishing tools.
The Urfa Man c.9000 BC. Şanlıurfa Archaeology and Mosaic Museum.
Female and male figurines; 9000–7000 BC; gypsum with bitumen and stone inlays; from Tell Fekheriye (Al-Hasakah Governorate of Syria); University of Chicago Oriental Institute (USA)
'Ain Ghazal Statues, found at 'Ain Ghazal in Jordan, are considered to be one of the earliest large-scale representations of the human form dating back to around 7250 BC.
Algerian cave paintings depicting hunting scenes
Female figure from Tumba Madžari, North Macedonia
Map showing distribution of some of the main culture complexes in Neolithic Europe, c. undefined 3500 BC
Skara Brae, Scotland. Evidence of home furnishings (shelves)
Stone cup, Neolithic period, Manchurian Culture
Stone Axe, Neolithic period, Manchurian Culture
Big Stone Axe, Early Neolithic period, Manchurian Culture
Round stone hoe, Early Neolithic period, Manchurian Culture
Anthropomorphic Neolithic figurine
Anthropomorphic Neolithic ceramic figurine
Clay human figurine (Fertility goddess) Tappeh Sarab, Kermanshah ca. 7000-6100 BC, Neolithic period, National Museum of Iran
Reconstruction of Neolithic house in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina
earthenware pig, Xinglongwa Culture, Early Neolithic period
A Cucuteni-Trypillian culture deer antler plough
Food and cooking items retrieved at a European Neolithic site: millstones, charred bread, grains and small apples, a clay cooking pot, and containers made of antlers and wood
Red cup, Earthenware, Early Neolithic period, Xinglongwa Cultur
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The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age, with a wide-ranging set of developments that appear to have arisen independently in several parts of the world.

The Warrior of Hirschlanden (German: Krieger von Hirschlanden), a statue of a nude ithyphallic warrior made of sandstone, the oldest known Iron Age life-size anthropomorphic statue north of the Alps

Iron Age

Final epoch of the three-age division of the prehistory and protohistory of humanity.

Final epoch of the three-age division of the prehistory and protohistory of humanity.

The Warrior of Hirschlanden (German: Krieger von Hirschlanden), a statue of a nude ithyphallic warrior made of sandstone, the oldest known Iron Age life-size anthropomorphic statue north of the Alps
Europe in the year 700 BC, during the Iron Age
Maiden Castle, Dorset, England. More than 2,000 Iron Age hillforts are known in Britain.
Silla chest and neck armour from the National Museum of Korea in Seoul (3rd century CE)
Lingling-o earrings from Luzon, Philippines
Iron Age finds in East and Southern Africa, corresponding to the early 1st millennium Bantu expansion
Broborg Knivsta, prehistoric castle

It was preceded by the Stone Age (Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, and Chalcolithic) and the Bronze Age.

Chalcolithic copper mine in Timna Valley, Negev Desert, Israel

Chalcolithic

Archaeological period that researchers now regard as part of the broader Neolithic.

Archaeological period that researchers now regard as part of the broader Neolithic.

Chalcolithic copper mine in Timna Valley, Negev Desert, Israel
Painting of a Copper Age walled settlement, Los Millares, Spain
Hongshan culture, Nine hole penannular ring, Chalcolithic period, Mongolia

The Chalcolithic was seen as a new -lithic age, a part of the Stone Age in which copper was used, which may appear paradoxical.

Hunting a glyptodon. Painting by Heinrich Harder c. 1920. Glyptodons were hunted to extinction within two millennia after humans' arrival in South America.

Paleolithic

Period in prehistory distinguished by the original development of stone tools that covers 99% of the period of human technological prehistory.

Period in prehistory distinguished by the original development of stone tools that covers 99% of the period of human technological prehistory.

Hunting a glyptodon. Painting by Heinrich Harder c. 1920. Glyptodons were hunted to extinction within two millennia after humans' arrival in South America.
Cave of Altamira and Paleolithic Cave Art of Northern Spain
This skull, of early Homo neanderthalensis, Miguelón from the Lower Paleolithic dated to 430,000 bp.
Temperature rise marking the end of Paleolithic, as derived from ice core data.
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An artist's rendering of a temporary wood house, based on evidence found at Terra Amata (in Nice, France) and dated to the Lower Paleolithic ( BP)
Lower Paleolithic biface viewed from both its superior and inferior surface
Stone ball from a set of Paleolithic bolas
Humans may have taken part in long-distance trade between bands for rare commodities and raw materials (such as stone needed for making tools) as early as 120,000 years ago in Middle Paleolithic.
The Venus of Willendorf is one of the most famous Venus figurines.
Gwion Gwion rock paintings found in the north-west Kimberley region of Western Australia.
Picture of a half-human, half-animal being in a Paleolithic cave painting in Dordogne. France. Some archaeologists believe that cave paintings of half-human, half-animal beings may be evidence for early shamanic practices during the Paleolithic.
People may have first fermented grapes in animal skin pouches to create wine during the Paleolithic age.
Large game animals such as deer were an important source of protein in Middle and Upper Paleolithic diets.

It derives from Greek: παλαιός, palaios, "old"; and λίθος, lithos, "stone", meaning "old age of the stone" or "Old Stone Age".

Electric phosphate smelting furnace in a TVA chemical plant (1942)

Smelting

Process of applying heat to ore in order to extract a base metal.

Process of applying heat to ore in order to extract a base metal.

Electric phosphate smelting furnace in a TVA chemical plant (1942)
Casting bronze ding-tripods, from the Chinese Tiangong Kaiwu encyclopedia of Song Yingxing, published in 1637.
Cowles Syndicate of Ohio in Stoke-upon-Trent England, late 1880s. British Aluminium used the process of Paul Héroult about this time.

The impact was so pervasive that scholars traditionally divide ancient history into Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age.

Delineations on pieces of antler

Prehistory

Period of human history between the use of the first stone tools by hominins c. undefined 3.3 million years ago and the beginning of recorded history with the invention of writing systems.

Period of human history between the use of the first stone tools by hominins c. undefined 3.3 million years ago and the beginning of recorded history with the invention of writing systems.

Delineations on pieces of antler
Massive stone pillars at Göbekli Tepe, in southeast Turkey, erected for ritual use by early Neolithic people 11,000 years ago
An early sketch imagining an adult and a juvenile from prehistoric times making a stone tool
A nineteenth century concept of early humans in a wilderness
Proposed map of early human migrations, according to mitochondrial population genetics with numbers that are millennia before the present (its accuracy is disputed)
Dugout canoe
Entrance to the Ġgantija phase temple complex of Ħaġar Qim, Malta, 3900 BCE
An array of Neolithic artifacts, including bracelets, axe heads, chisels, and polishing tools - Neolithic stone artifacts are by definition polished and, except for specialty items, not chipped
The monumental building at Luni sul Mignone in Blera, Italy, 3500 BCE
Artist's impression of a Copper Age walled city, Los Millares, Iberia
Chalcolithic copper mine in Timna Valley, Negev Desert, Israel
An image of an ox-drawn plow is accompanied by script, Egypt, c. 1200 BCE

The three-age system of division of prehistory into the Stone Age, followed by the Bronze Age and Iron Age, remains in use for much of Eurasia and North Africa, but is not generally used in those parts of the world where the working of hard metals arrived abruptly from contact with Eurasian cultures, such as Oceania, Australasia, much of Sub-Saharan Africa, and parts of the Americas.

Stone Tools from Skorba

Stone tool

A stone tool is, in the most general sense, any tool made either partially or entirely out of stone.

A stone tool is, in the most general sense, any tool made either partially or entirely out of stone.

Stone Tools from Skorba
A selection of prehistoric stone tools
A typical Oldowan simple chopping-tool. This example is from the Duero Valley, Valladolid.
A biface (trihedral) from Amar Merdeg, Zagros foothills, Lower Paleolithic, National Museum of Iran
A typical Acheulean handaxe; this example is from the Douro valley, Zamora, Spain. The small flakes on the edge are from reworking.
A tool made by the Levallois technique. This example is from La Parrilla (Valladolid, Spain).
Middle Paleolithic stone tool known as Mousterian point, Darai Rockshelter, Zagros
An array of Neolithic artifacts, including bracelets, axe heads, chisels, and polishing tools.
Polished Neolithic jadeitite axe from the Museum of Toulouse
Axe heads found at a 2700 BC Neolithic manufacture site in Switzerland, arranged in the various stages of production from left to right
Small lunates from Epipaleolithic site of Mar Dalan, Rawansar, Kermanshah, Zagros

Although stone tool-dependent societies and cultures still exist today, most stone tools are associated with prehistoric (particularly Stone Age) cultures that have become extinct.

A sample of Miorcani flint from the Cenomanian chalky marl layer of the Moldavian Plateau (ca. 7.5 cm wide)

Flint

Sedimentary cryptocrystalline form of the mineral quartz, categorized as the variety of chert that occurs in chalk or marly limestone.

Sedimentary cryptocrystalline form of the mineral quartz, categorized as the variety of chert that occurs in chalk or marly limestone.

A sample of Miorcani flint from the Cenomanian chalky marl layer of the Moldavian Plateau (ca. 7.5 cm wide)
A piece of flint, 9-10 cm long, weighing 171 grams
Silicified remains of algae and silica pseudomorph after halite in flint. Pebble of Loire near Marcigny, France. Image width: about 5 mm.
Pebble beach made up of flint nodules eroded from the nearby chalk cliffs, Cape Arkona, Rügen, northeast Germany.
Neolithic flint axe, about 31 cm long
A ferrocerium “flint” spark lighter in action
Assorted reproduction firesteels typical of Roman to Medieval period
A flint church – the Parish Church of Saint Thomas, in Cricket Saint Thomas, Somerset, England. The height of the very neatly knapped flints varies between {{convert|3|and|5|in|cm}}.
Close-up of the wall of the Roman shore fort at Burgh Castle, Norfolk, showing alternating courses of flint and brick
A typical medieval wall (with modern memorial) at Canterbury Cathedral – knapped and unknapped ("cobble") flints are mixed with pieces of brick and other stones
Ruins of Thetford Priory show flints and mortar through the whole depth of the wall

Flint is one of the primary materials used to define the Stone Age.

This is a drawing of a replica of an Acheulean hand-axe found during the Lower Paleolithic period. The tool in this drawing is made of black obsidian and is worked on both sides.

Middle Paleolithic

This is a drawing of a replica of an Acheulean hand-axe found during the Lower Paleolithic period. The tool in this drawing is made of black obsidian and is worked on both sides.

The Middle Paleolithic (or Middle Palaeolithic) is the second subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age as it is understood in Europe, Africa and Asia.

Four views of an Acheulean handaxe

Lower Paleolithic

Four views of an Acheulean handaxe
Artist reconstruction of a Lower Paleolithic hominin group while exploiting resources near a river

The Lower Paleolithic (or Lower Palaeolithic) is the earliest subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age.