Stone Age Timeline: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jonathan Crocker
The study of history covers millions of years, from the formation of the Earth, to the evolution of humans, and to even what happened just yesterday. This lesson will look at human evolution in the prehistoric times known as the Stone Age.

The Stone Age

What do you think of when you hear the words Stone Age? Do you think of people hunting mammoths with spears, telling stories around the campfire, and painting on the walls of caves? If so, you'd be right--but there's much more to the Stone Age than just that. People of the Stone Age made some extremely important technological advances! Let's take a look!

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The Stone Age officially began once humans started making stone tools (about 3 million years ago). It officially ends once the people in a particular area begin using metal (such as bronze) to replace stone in their tools. This means that the stone age did not have a definite end for everyone at the same time. In some places (like parts of Europe), the stone age ended around 6000 BCE. In other places (like Australia), it didn't end until the 1600s CE. There are even a few groups of isolated people that still don't use metal tools; for them, the stone age is still happening!

The Stone Age is divided into three different time periods: Paleolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic.

Paleolithic - Old Stone Age

The Paleolithic is the longest of the time periods in the Stone Age, lasting from about 2.5 million years ago until about 10,000 years ago. That's most of the time that humans have been around! It is further divided into three smaller time periods:

Lower Paleolithic: (2.5 million to 200,000 years ago)

  • People make simple hand axes: a stone with one sharp side, held directly in the hand for chopping. The hand axes are made by striking one stone with another until pieces break off, making a sharp edge.
  • The first shelters are made, using rock and branches.
  • Clothing is made of animal skins.

Middle Paleolithic: (around 300,000 to 30,000 years ago)

  • Humans discover fire. Marshmallows are still a long way off, but the fires are still very useful for heating and cooking. Think of all the ways we use combustion (burning) today: it makes our cars run and provides electricity (from many of our power plants). These are very different from a campfire, yet they would not be possible without the discovery of fire.

Upper Paleolithic: (50,000 to 10,000 years ago)

  • Some humans begin to eat wild grains
  • Shelters include huts, with roofs and clay walls. People also begin making tents out of animal skins.
  • People create art. The earliest paintings are made on rocks, often in caves.
  • Dogs become domesticated (living with humans instead of in the wild). They don't catch frisbees just yet.

Cave painting showing horses
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