Skills of Man in Old Stone Age
Generally, the time span from about 2 million years ago to about 3000 BC is called the Stone Age, because it was a period when manmade most of his weapons and tools of stone. The Stone Age is divided into three periods, the earliest of which is called the Old Stone Age, or Paleolithic period. (The word Paleolithic is derived from two Greek words meaning “ancient stone.” ) The Old Stone Age lasted until about 8000 BC.
Early man developed tools and skills. The manlike creature who developed into early man probably did not know how to make or use tools or weapons. It is likely that he lived on insects, fish, and animals that he could catch with his bare hands. In addition, he gathered roots and wild plants for food. At this early stage, his way of living was like that of the beasts.
The most important quality which makes man superior to other animals is his ability to think. Another important quality is his ability to talk to exchange ideas with others. Such capacities have enabled man to rise far above the level of the wild beasts and to make steady advances in his way of living.
One of the first advances of man was the development of crude tools and weapons. He found ways of shaping rocks to the size and form that were helpful to him. He developed the fist hatchet, an early tool Prehistoric Man was able to attain supremacy over his fellow creatures because of his erect posture, his complex brain, and his ability to grasp objects with his hands. He began to master his environment by learning to make fire, clothing, and shelter.
With such weapons, man became a hunter of animals larger than those he could kill with his hands and teeth alone. Man found uses for fire. Man knew of fire long before he learned to make it useful. He saw leaves, grass, or wood burning where lightning had struck. If the fire was small, perhaps he was not afraid of it. He may even have picked up a burning stick and waved it at an animal enemy. This would have taught him that here was another aid against his natural enemies. Gradually, he learned to keep a fire burning by adding wood or leaves.
He learned to cover his fire with ashes at night to keep coals glowing for rekindling new flames in the morning. But a longer time must have passed before man learned to start a fire. Glaciers affected mans way of living. Fire became very important to man in the regions where his life was affected by glaciers.
These giant masses of ice pushed down from the north during four different periods, which together made up what is called the Ice Age. In each period of the Ice Age, the glaciers formed in the north, gradually moved southward, and eventually retreated toward the North Pole. (The time span of the Ice Age coincides roughly with the time span of the Old Stone Age.)
As the glacial ice moved south, it covered much of northern and central Europe, Siberia, and North America. It pushed tons of gravel, boulders, and stones ahead of it. In America, formations made by the glaciers may be seen as far south as the Ohio and the Missouri rivers. In the final period of the Ice Age, about 50 thousand years ago, the glaciers reached their farthest distance south.
About 20 thousand years ago, this ice began melting in the south, and the remnant is still melting in the far north. During the Ice Age, many men and animals died of exposure or starvation. Others moved to warmer areas. Still others adapted themselves to the cold. Some animals developed thick hides or coats of fur. Among these were the woolly mammoth and the woolly rhinoceros.
Man was also able to adapt himself to living in a cold world. He took refuge in caves and learned to wear animal skins for warmth. To make such clothing, he had to invent new tools— stone knives for skinning and bone tools for scraping the flesh and fat from the inner side of animal skins. Neanderthal Man advanced beyond his ancestors.
One type of Old Stone Age man who adjusted to cold was Neanderthal Man. He used fire, lived in caves wherever possible, and made his clothing of skins. From the tools and weapons he used, anthropologists have determined that Neanderthal Man learned to attach handles to chipped stones to make crude knives and spears.
He also began to form religious beliefs. Remains of food and weapons found in the graves of his people indicate that he may have believed in some kind of afterlife. Cro-Magnon Man developed art. Late in the Ice Age, about 30 thousand years ago, Homo sapiens, or the modern type of man, appeared.
The chinless head, the receding skull, and the slouching posture of earlier types were replaced by features characteristic of modern man. The best known of these modern types was called Cro-Magnon Man. Cro-Magnon Man invented better tools and weapons than did Neanderthal. He made spears with fine flint points and harpoons of reindeer horn and bone. To sew skins together, he developed bone needles.
Cro-Magnon Man was also an artist. He carved figures of animals from horn and bone, molded statues in clay, and carved and painted the walls of caves. The Cro- Magnon hunter painted animals as magical symbols to bring him luck on the hunt. The first painters may also have been witch doctors or magicians.
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