Stone Age Tools

Ancient stone tools and other artefacts allow us to understand how early-human objects were conceived, how people lived and interacted with each other and their surroundings.

Imaginative depiction of the Stone Age, by Viktor Vasnetsov
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Stone Age time coordinates

The Stone Age indicates the large period during which stone was widely used to make utensils. So far, the first stone tools have been dated around 2,6 million years ago. The end is set at the first use of bronze around 3,300 BCE. Stone was not the only material used for tool making, yet it was the most durable one when it came to decaying and thus survived better than the others.

This is superb quality flint, worked by a master craftsman.
Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
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Some Stone Age Facts

Early in the Stone Age, humans lived in tiny, roaming groups. During this period, the Earth was in the middle of an Ice Age.
Stone Age humans hunted large mammals, such as mammoths, giant bison and deers. They used stone tools to cut, weight and crush, earning better skills at extracting meat and other nutrients from animals and plants than their ancestors.
Around 14,000 years ago, Earth entered a warmer time and many of the large Ice Age animals were extinct. In the Fertile Crescent, a boomerang-shaped region surrounded on the west by the Mediterranean Sea and the east by the Persian Gulf, wild corn and cereal became abundant as it got warmer. Humans started to build houses. They changed the nomadic lifestyle for farming.

Rock painting at Bhimbetka, India, a World heritage site
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Early Stone Age Tools

The first production of stone tools dates back to about 2.6 million years ago. The oldest stone utensils, called the Oldowan toolkit, consist of:
Hammerstones that show signs of beatings on their surfaces
• Stone cores that show flake marks along the edges
• Sharp stone flakes that allow to have cutting edges, along with lots of debris from percussion flaking.
By about 1.76 million years ago, early humans began shaping larger stones to create sharper objects for cutting purposes, like new kind of tools called handaxes. These utensils and other types of ‘large cutting tools’ characterize the Acheulean toolkit. These toolkits were made for an immense period, ending by around 400,000 to 250,000 years ago.

A variety of stone tools
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Middle Stone Age Tools

Between about 400,000 and 200,000 years ago, stone shaping techniques began to increase. One of the main innovations was the application of the “prepared core technique”, in which a core was particularly flaked on one side so that a flake, predetermined in size and shape, could be produced in a single cut.
Middle Stone Age toolkits included spikes, which could be hafted on to shafts to make spears. They could be attached to smaller, sleeker shafts to create darts, arrows, and other weapons. Stone awls could have been used to perforate hides and scrapers were useful in preparing hide. Moreover, wood and other materials were used in this period.

Katja Douze, Middle stone age tools
Image source: Author: News Staff

Later Stone Age Tools

During the Later Stone Age, the speed of innovations grew. In addition to stone, people experimented with different raw materials (bone, ivory and antler). The level of craftsmanship increased, and Homo Sapiens groups searched for their own unique cultural identity and adopted their ways of creating objects. The toolkits of Later Stone Age were diverse and reflected the cultural diversity of the earlier times, such as for example, ‘Upper Paleolithic’ toolkits in Europe and ‘Late Stone Age’ toolkits in Africa. 

African biface (scraper/cutting tool) dated to the Later Stone Age
Image source: Author: José-Manuel Benito Álvarez

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