What is Paleolithic Archaeology?

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  • 0:08 Paleolithic Archaeology
  • 0:57 Pebble Tools
  • 2:05 Egalitarian Hunter-Gatherers
  • 3:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

Today's lesson will seek to explain Paleolithic archaeology and its theories. In doing so, it will highlight the use of pebble tools as well as the nomadic hunter-gathering lifestyle of the Paleolithic man.

Paleolithic Archaeology

Paleolithic archaeology is a rather fancy term for the study of human culture from the beginning of man's existence until about the year 10,000 BC. Due to this extremely long time period, the exact dates of which can't even be nailed down, most of what science asserts about the Paleolithic Age is based on theory, a supposition used to account for a situation or justify a course of action.

Adding to this difficulty of study, archaeology is continually unearthing new finds that many times disprove suppositions that have been thought of as fact. In other words, there's some disagreement about the validity of much of what we will be discussing today. With this disclaimer of sorts in mind, today's lesson will seek to give a quick glimpse into some of the more agreed-upon theories concerning the Paleolithic Age.

Pebble Tools

To begin, the Paleolithic Age is often simply referred to as the 'Old Stone Age.' Since all the Stone Ages tend to be categorized by the degree of the complexity of tools used, we'll begin today's lesson with a discussion of Paleolithic tools. For starters, the Paleolithic Age gives us the first evidence of humans making and using tools. Since many of these first tools were made of stone, history has coined the name 'Stone Age' with, as we've already mentioned, the Paleolithic Age being the oldest.

Now, when speaking of tools it's really easy for those of us from the Western world to limit our thinking to power tools with snazzy names. However, when speaking archaeologically the definition is much broader, as a tool is any device or resource used to carry out a particular function. With this definition in mind, Paleolithic man used very rudimentary tools made usually of pebble, wood, or stone. In fact, the earliest-known tools, which were made of very small stones, are often referred to as pebble tools. Leaving our discussion on tools, we'll now turn our attention toward how Paleolithic man obtained food.

Egalitarian Hunter-Gatherers

According to most, Paleolithic humans were hunter-gatherers, people who collect food from naturally occurring resources, things like plants, animals, and sea life. Due to this huge dependence on their environments, most assert that Paleolithic humans lived a nomadic life, or a lifestyle consisting of moving from place to place with no specific pattern, usually in an effort to find food. Putting it simply, Paleolithic man traveled to find food rather than planting or raising it.

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