The oldest of the Stone Age tools and implements found are about 2.5 million years old. With the passage of time, people became more skilled, and the stone implements became progressively refined. Archaeologists have further divided the Stone Age into three periods: the Paleolithic Age, the Mesolithic Age, and the Neolithic Age. This division is based solely on the sophistication and refinement of skills used in creating and using the stone implements. The Stone Age was, on the whole, a period of stabilization after the significant climatic changes of the ice age.
The Paleolithic Age
Archaeologist John Lubbock first referred to the era as the Paleolithic Age, which is Greek for “Old Stone Age.” The societies of human beings in the Paleolithic Age comprised small groups who hunted and gathered food. Food primarily consisted of plants and small animals and fishes that could be consumed without cooking. Knapped flint implements were used and bone and wood supplemented the use of stones. Animal skin, leather, and plant fiber made the crude clothes for the early humans. The evolution of Homo sapiens from Homo habilis was perhaps the most momentous of changes in the Paleolithic Age. The best examples of Paleolithic excavations were found in Mesopotamia.
The Mesolithic Age
Mesolithic microliths have been excavated from different parts of the world. Northern Europe, Japan, the Levant, and the Fertile Crescent belt of Mesopotamia have been a veritable treasure trove for archaeologists looking for tools and implements from the Mesolithic Age. These tools show remarkable evolution from the crude Paleolithic implements. The Natufian culture is dated to the Mesolithic Age. From a hunter-gatherer society, human beings began experimenting with agriculture. Crude jewelry made of stone and shells belonging to this era have also been discovered, suggesting an upsurge in the creative instincts of human beings. Cave paintings and the discovery of music are also attributed to the Mesolithic Age.
The Neolithic Age is believed to have commenced in the Levant in about 9500 BC, though it started later in different parts of the world. The stone implements of this age were polished and rounded in shape and demonstrate the finesse of the men who created them. Climatic changes had made the Levant, Mesopotamia, North Africa, and parts of Asia Minor verdant. The Natufians progressed from collecting wild barley and wheat to systematic agriculture. By 8000 BC, a number of communities had settled in, and the art of pottery was learned. Evidence of Neolithic pottery are found in Japan and Mesopotamia. Animals such as sheep, goats, dogs and pigs were domesticated and reared.
Overall the Stone Age was an age of social learning. Agriculture, pottery, carving, hunting, and communal living were skills acquired during this age. Humans learned many of the skills that would make successful communities.