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Stone Age

Stone Age, stage of earliest human cultural development, preceding the Bronze Age and Iron Age. It is characterized by the nearly exclusive use of stone tools and weapons and is divided into 3 periods. The Paleolithic period, or Old Stone Age, began with the emergence of Homo sapiens. These nomadic hunters and gatherers lived in caves, used fire, and made tools of chipped stone (some relics have been dated at 2.5 million years old). By the end of this period, known as the Upper Paleolithic, it is believed hunting was communal, shelter was manmade, and belief in the supernatural, or magic, had been born. The Mesolithic period, or Middle Stone Age, was confined exclusively to northeastern Europe where, between 10,000 B.C. and 3000 B.C., various peoples enjoyed a culture that showed similarities with those of both the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods. There were the beginnings of settled communities and domesticated plants and animals; hunting was expanded to include use of the bow; and the making of pottery was introduced. The Neolithic, or New Stone Age, began in Asia c.8000 B.C. and spread through Europe between 6000 B.C. and 2000 B.C.; it was signaled by the development of agriculture, with a consequent increase in the stability of the population and hence elaboration of the social structure. The tools of this period were of polished stone. In addition to farming, men also worked mines. The Neolithic period merged slowly into the Early Bronze Age.

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