What Was Life Like in the Stone Age? - People, Society & Culture

Instructor: Joanna Harris

Joanna has taught high school social studies both online and in a traditional classroom since 2009, and has a doctorate in Educational Leadership

If you have ever wanted to know more about the history of mankind this lesson has information that may be of use to you. In this lesson we will learn about the Stone Age, and what life was like for the early humans who lived in this time period.

The Stone Age

The period known as the Stone Age began some 2.5 million years ago, and is known for early man's use of tools and weapons made of stone. During these years the Earth was extremely cold and ocean levels were much lower than they are now. For example, at one point during the Stone Age, Britain was connected to Europe and Japan was connected to Asia. Due to the cold climate, much of the Stone Age is also called the Ice Age.

Before moving forward, ask yourself a few questions… What would you do if your only option for eating meat was to eat it raw? How would your life be different if you never had a place to call home? How would you fare if you had to kill animals much larger than yourself in order to eat and survive the cold?

If the answers to any of these questions are…I don't know…. By the end of this lesson you may have some answers. Let's get started.

Stone Age People

The Stone Age began 2.5 million years ago in what is called the Paleolithic Era (Old Stone Age). This part of the Stone Age ended around 9,000 BC. During these years the Neanderthal was the early human race. When we picture these early humans we mainly think of cavemen who were not intelligent. This is believed to be untrue. Neanderthals were the first to use art as a means of expression, making the first cave drawings. Neanderthals are also credited with the discovery of fire. Could these people have been unintelligent?

Neanderthal Woman
Neanderthal Woman

During the later years of the Paleolithic Era the Neanderthals went into decline. There are many theories as to why this happened, but in truth no one knows for sure. They could have died from warfare or they may have bred into their more advanced counterparts. What we do know is that the Cro-Magnon replaced the Neanderthal during this part of the Stone Age. Cro-Magnons still had facial features like enlarged mandibles and foreheads, but they were much stronger and smarter than their predecessors…more like modern day humans.

Stone Age Society

Much of life during the Stone Age was extremely difficult. It was very cold, and there wasn't much food. During the Paleolithic Era and the following Mesolithic Era (Middle Stone Age) beginning around 9,000 BC, the main food sources were large and dangerous animals. These animals were needed for food and also for clothing. Their fur was warm, and early humans needed their hides in order to survive the most inhospitable climates you could imagine.

As these large animals migrated due to climate or mating habits, the early humans who depended upon them followed along. They followed the food or they died. There were opportunities for fishing, and early humans during these years ate fish if they lived where fishing was an option. Fish, crabs, lobsters and many other aquatic life forms were available, and a much safer form of protein than the mastodon. However, there was no alternative to hunting large and dangerous animals for clothing.

As the Paleolithic Era transitioned to the Mesolithic Era, the Ice Age was ending. Climates were warming, so other forms of food were becoming available. For the first time early humans were able to enjoy fruit like grapes. Imagine the thrill of tasting a grape for the first time!

There was also the discovery of fire during the Paleolithic Era, and what a spectacle that must have been. Early humans could not only keep warm for the first time, but they could also cook their meat. No more raw kidneys and livers for them. As things warmed up and more food sources were available, humans began to thrive and innovate like never before. A new day was on the horizon, and it would change the culture of early humans forever.

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