Stone Age

From the dawn of our species to the present day, stone-made artifacts are the dominant form of material remains that have survived to today concerning human technology. The term “Stone Age” was coined in the late 19th century CE by the Danish scholar Christian J. Thomsen, who came up with a framework for the study of the human past, known as the “Three Age System”. The basis of this framework is technological: it revolves around the notion of three successive periods or ages: Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age, each age being technologically more complex than the one before it. Thomsen came up with this idea after noticing that the artefacts found in archaeological sites displayed regularity in terms of the material that they were made with: stone-made tools were always found in the deepest layers, bronze artifacts in layers on top of the deepest layers, and finally iron-made artifacts were found closest to the surface. This suggested that metal technology developed later than stone-made tools. This “Three Age System” has received some criticism. There are scholars who believe that this approach is too technologically oriented. Others say that this stone-bronze-iron pattern has hardly any meaning when applied outside Europe. Despite the critics, this system is still largely used today and, although it has limitations, it can be helpful as long as we remember that it is a simplified framework.

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Chauvet Cave

The Chauvet Cave (also known as the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave) is a Palaeolithic cave situated near Vallon-Pont-d’Arc in the Ardèche region of southern France that houses impeccably preserved, exquisite examples of prehistoric art. Now reliably dated to between c. 33,000 and c. 30,000 years ago, the numerous and diverse animals that dot the interior walls of the cave – both painted and engraved – show such high artistic quality that they were initially thought to have been closer in age to the similarly stunning, but much younger art in caves such as the Lascaux Cave. Its age and artistry have made us reconsider the story of art as well as the capabilities of these humans. The cave has been granted UNESCO World Heritage status.

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Read also: Lascaux Cave

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Prehistoric Hunter-gatherer Societies

Hunter-gatherer societies are – true to their astoundingly descriptive name – cultures in which human beings obtain their food by hunting, fishing, scavenging, and gathering wild plants and other edibles. Although there are still groups of hunter-gatherers in our modern world, we will here focus on the prehistoric societies that relied on the bounty of nature, before the transition to agriculture began around 12,000 years ago. Prehistoric hunter-gatherers often lived in groups of a few dozens of people, consisting of several family units. They developed tools to help them survive and were dependent on the abundance of food in the area, which if an area was not plentiful enough required them to move to greener forests (pastures were not around yet). It is probable that generally, the men hunted while the women foraged.

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Ancient Greek Science

By careful thinking based upon observation, some ancient Greeks realized that it was possible to find regularities and patterns hidden in nature and that those regularities were the key to unlocking the secrets of the universe. It became evident that even nature had to obey certain rules and by knowing those rules one could predict the behaviour of nature. Observation was eventually undervalued by the Greeks in favour of the deductive process, where knowledge is built by means of pure thought. This method is key in mathematics and the Greeks put such an emphasis on it that they falsely believed that deduction was the way to obtain the highest knowledge.

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Ancient Chinese Philosophy

Chinese philosophy is the intellectual tradition of the Chinese culture from their early recorded history to the present day. The main philosophical topics of Chinese philosophy were heavily influenced by the ideas of important figures like Laozi, Confucius, Mencius and Mozi, who all lived during the second half of the Zhou dynasty (8th to 3rd century BCE). Chinese culture as a whole has been shaped by the influence of these intellectual leaders. Humanism has been the chief attribute of Chinese philosophy. The role of humans and their place in society has always been the main focus of Chinese thinkers. Practical, moral and political concerns have been favoured over metaphysical speculation as Chinese philosophy tends to be concerned with worldly affairs.

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Stone Age Tools

As the Stone Age covers around 99% of our hum+an technological history, it would seem there is a lot to talk about when looking at the development of tools in this period. Despite our reliance on the sometimes scarce archaeological record, this is definitely the case. The Stone Age indicates the large swathe of time during which stone was widely used to make implements. So far, the first stone tools have been dated to roughly 2,6 million years ago. The end is set at the first use of bronze, which did not come into play at the same time everywhere; the Near East was the first to enter the Bronze Age around 3,300 BCE. It must be recognised that stone was by no means the only material used for tools throughout this time, yet it is the most stubborn one when it comes to decaying and thus survives a bit better than the alternatives.

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Homo Erectus

Homo erectus, or ‘upright man’, is an extinct species of human that occupies an intriguing spot within the human evolutionary lineage. These prehistoric hunter-gatherers were highly successful in adapting to vastly different habitats across the Old World, as fossils connected with this species have been found ranging from Africa all the way to Southeast Asia. With the first remains appearing around 1,9 million years ago, and the last ones being present perhaps as late as 30,000 years ago, Homo erectus spanned an extraordinarily large time frame. However, the amount of variation between different fossils from different times and places has raised a lot of questions regarding the actual classification of the species, and its exact role in the evolutionary story.

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