Stages of Prehistory: Stone Age and Neolithic

The Stages of prehistory Are the different phases before the beginning of the story and go from the original appearance of the first hominids (the ancestors of Homo sapiens sapiens).

Its beginning is really imprecise and culminated with the invention of the writing and the first reports of calligraphic documents around the year 3,300 a.C., date that is considered like the beginning of the History.

Stages of Prehistory

According to historians, the life of humanity is divided into two stages:

The first corresponds to Prehistory. Its limits are not exact, it is estimated that it could have started about 4 or 5 million years ago, human evolution was slow and progressive so it is not known with certainty when the man with characteristics similar to the present appeared.

This period is known thanks to the existence of some vestiges such as instruments, cave paintings, buildings, bones.

A consensus has not been reached on when the Homo sapiens (Thinking man). It is approached that appeared 300,000 or 100,000 years ago and had little creative capacity.

About 30,000 years ago, the Homo sapiens sapiens , The last human evolution that was hunter, collector, made use of fire, created rudimentary weapons with wood, etc.

Prehistory is divided into:

  • Ancient Stone Age : In which human beings created their tools and tools with stones and other rudimentary materials such as bones, ropes, leather, etc.
  • Neolithic period"new stone" : During this stage there was an improvement in the technology and began the creation of objects with molten metals.

The second is the stage of history that began with the invention of writing, from that moment began to leave testimony of the acts and experiences of the human being.

It continues to the present day and is subdivided into:

  • Old age
  • Middle Ages
  • Modern age
  • Contemporary age

Stone age

According to some historians and archaeologists, the Stone Age is considered as the era in which humans developed the most tools from stones, although they soon began to use other materials such as bone, ivory and wood.

A large number of archaeologists and anthropologists have dedicated their lives to analyze and study DNA samples, artifacts of the time, rock paintings or bones in order to build a database of how our ancestors were and how life on our planet could have been millions of years.

Currently available evidence shows that this process took place in very different times depending on the different parts of the world. Stone Age dates vary depending on the territory to be analyzed and the dates assigned to the stones implemented and discovered in each region.

As a result of this, Stone Age dates have varied on multiple occasions with each new discovery and also because of the development of time measurement methods.

There is evidence of the use of rocks as implements as far back as 2.5 million years in Africa, 1.8 million years in Asia and one million years ago in Europe.

According to all the information found so far, the theories indicate that the African continent is considered as the place with the first human developments.

During the course of the Stone Age, humanity also experienced an Ice Age, between 1.6 million to 10,000 years ago. Most of the world became frozen and glaciers covered most of North America.

After the communication of this period, the humans began to realize plantations and began a new life: the first communities were created, domesticated animals, etc.

The culmination of the stone stage occurred when an area began to show the first uses of metal implements. It is generally believed to have culminated between 6,000 and 4,000 BC.

This stone stage is divided into:

  • Paleolithic
  • Mesolithic
  • Neolithic


Ancient stone age: 2.5 million years - 15,000 years ago. This period covers about 95% of human"history". It is characterized by having a nomadic population. Due to the need for survival that forced them to migrate, they did not live in one place.

During this time there was one of the greatest discoveries of mankind: fire. This finding brought with it many changes and improvements to the lives of the first men, who used hunting, fishing and gathering as their main source of food.

They used the carved stone, the bones and the wood for the manufacture of its first instruments, utensils and armaments. Religious beliefs were dominated by magic.

Stages of Prehistory: Stone Age and Neolithic Paintings in the cave of Altamira (Santillana del mar)

In this stage also the first artistic manifestations of the human race were presented by means of the cave paintings, drawings and prehistoric sketches, which were realized on the rocks and were mainly found inside the caves.

Being the longest phase of humanity is subdivided into three stages: lower Paleolithic, Middle Paleolithic and Upper Paleolithic.

General characteristics of the Palaeolithic

  • Longest and oldest period in the history of mankind.
  • Climatic changes abounded, alternating between the period of glaciation and interglacials.
  • There were 4 glaciations that gave rise to times of polar climate, these have by names: Günz, Mindel, Riss and Würm.
  • During the interglacial periods the predominant climate was temperate and rainy.
  • Almost all Europe was totally frozen, except for some shores of the Mediterranean.
  • We live in an interglacial period called the Holocene, previously called according to the glacial period: for example in the case of Günz / interglaciary period Günz-Mindel) - Mindel / interglacial period Mindel - Riss / Riss - interglacial period Riss-Würm / Würm - Holocene interglacial period.

A) Lower Palaeolithic

  • They were based on harvesting, hunting and fishing.
  • The man of that time was a nomad.
  • They made camps.
  • They used tools and weapons of carved stone.
  • They were organized in bands.
  • The"carved singing"was created at this time and is considered the oldest artifact manufactured by the human being. It has many other names: olduyayense, pebble culture, pre-achelense, culture of carved songs.
  • At this time appeared the homínidos:
    • In Africa: the emergence of the Homo habilis , The first creator of tools, the Homo ergaster (From the Homo habilis ).
    • In Asia: the Homo erectus Who lived in East Asia (China, Indonesia) were the first to make use of fire, in China the Homo erectus was called Sinantropus And in Indonesia Pitecantropus .
    • In Europe: the oldest hominid species in Europe was the Homo antecessor , A species of fossil belonging to the genus homo.

The direct ancestor of the Neanderthal man in Europe is the Homo heidelbergensis Nicknamed"Goliath".

B) Middle Paleolithic

  • It was defined by the presence of the Homo neanderthalensis .
  • It was called Musterian by the fossils found in Le Moustier, France.
  • The Neanderthal lived for 70,000 years.
  • The Neanderthal man was a hominid hunter and nomad. They lived in caves.
  • During this time the techniques of hunting and the use of fire to light were perfected.
  • Greater degrees of social solidarity began to emerge.
  • Appeared in Africa the Homo sapiens sapiens , Current man.

C) Upper Paleolithic

  • The extinction of the Homo sapiens neanderthalensis .
  • He Homo sapiens sapiens Predominated in this era.
  • Invented bow and propeller.
  • They were mostly hunters and gatherers.
  • They began to tame the dog.
  • Culturally, art began to be a characteristic and predominant element in its culture.
  • Engravings were made in the caves as a way of artistic expression.
  • First appearances of rock art.
  • They developed working techniques and the lithic tools were perfected.
  • This was the period of the Supremacy of the present man.


Period of the prehistory located between the Paleolítico (old stone) and Neolithic (new stone), for this reason, its name means"between stones". It occurred about 15,000-10,000 years ago, approximately.

During this stage the end of the Pleistocene glacial era was presented, a situation that improved human life conditions considerably. This motivated the man to leave his caves to live in the open air.

It was determined by the heyday of harvesting and the rise of fishing, among other activities.

Artifacts with geometric shapes that used to join wood and other materials to form arrows made of stone, bone, wood and similar instruments were commonly used to facilitate hunting and to obtain hides without damaging them too much.

The culture of the man during the mesolithic stage was nomadic, with accommodations in caves during the winter and summer camps.

In some cases, when they were near coasts with abundant food, they settled in those places throughout the year.

This period was divided into two phases: the Epipaleolithic (post-Paleolithic phase) and the Protoneolytic (pre-Neolithic period and the age of metals).

General characteristics of the Mesolithic

  • Boom in the collection of vegetables and hunting.
  • Development of fishing with net, hooks and boats.
  • The first signs of sedentarism appeared.
  • The caves are abandoned to live outdoors.
  • The first villages and huts were created.
  • Art was characterized by an abundance of conceptual art and rationalism.
  • Artistic expressions based on the geometric and abstract.
  • Begins the differentiation of races and colonization of the planet.
  • The first cemeteries were created.


Third and final stage of the Stone Age, considered the"new stone age", lasted about 10,000 to 6,000 / 4,000 years ago.

It was called as the Neolithic revolution because it was the first radical transformation of the human way of life. In this phase, man ceases to be nomadic and the first settlements appear, becoming sedentary humanity and promoting social organization.

It is discovered the agriculture and the cattle raising, the perfection of its tools and the polishing of stones begins, it develops the pottery and even the creation of textiles.

Climate change led to a transformation of the subsistence economy based on hunting, to a more stable one based on livestock and crops.

Productive societies appear with a more complex organization: division of labor (not all were dedicated to the same as in previous times), early indications of private property, beginning of wealth.

General characteristics of the Neolithic

  • Boom in agriculture and livestock.
  • The first type of trade occurs.
  • Trade by barter.
  • Began the craft and barter of crafts by products.
  • Differentiation of works.
  • Home of wealth.
  • Appearance of private property.
  • Social inequality appears as a consequence of barter, private property and surplus.
  • In religion they worshiped the fertility of the earth"Mother Goddess".
  • At the end of the neolithic nature was worshiped: earth, sun, water, mountains, seas, all these were gods.

Age of metals

It begins when humans begin to use metals to create tools.

The type of metal used in its beginnings was probably influenced by the availability of the metal in its natural form, such as gold or copper, since both were smooth and easy to melt.

The ease of melting these metals was critical since the development of metallurgy went in parallel with the ability to produce more powerful fire and containers to withstand the molten material.

The use of gold probably began by the mechanical formation in the cold state of this metal and then with a gentle heating to soften it to the level of melting and reforming.

Copper era (5,000 BC - 1,800 BC)

It was one of the first metals used by man. At first it was used in its natural state to be modeled with rudimentary techniques.

It required the beginning of the development of metallurgy, the science of extracting metals and their transformation.

Bronze Age (1800 BC - 800 BC)

Bronze development occurred as a result of the alloy between copper and tin.

Iron Age (800 BC - 1 AD)

Iron collects popularity as essential material for the manufacture of weapons and tools.


  1. Lasso, Sara (2016). "Stages of prehistory. Timeline".
  2. Portillo, Luis (2009). "Prehistory: the Paleolithic".
  3. Portillo, Luis (2009). "Prehistory: the Mesolithic".
  4. Portillo, Luis (2009). "Neolithic Revolution".

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