The evolutionary history of the primates, including the early ancestors of man, has been traced deep into the Tertiary Period (Geologic Time). The Stone Age began in the Tertiary Period and ended during the Pleistocene Epoch (Ice Age). Evolutionary theory indicates possible links to our ancestors of several modern primates including the gibbon, orangutan, gorilla, and chimpanzee (Wikipedia) during the Tertiary Period between 5 and 15 million years ago. The fossil record contains evidence that provides a rough timeline, including the following events:
The term, caveman, has been used popularly to describe early humans. These prehistoric people have been characterized much as the cartoon characters portrayed on this web page (from hasslefreeclipart). Caveman is often shown living together with dinosaurs. This is inaccurate, as true primates did not appear until after the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. However, our ancestors did coexist with a number of mammals that are now extinct including woolly mammoths and saber-toothed cats.
Neanderthal Man was an early human that inhabited Europe and Western Asia between 24,000 and 130,000 years ago. This early ancestor had characteristics that indicated adaptations to a cold climate including a relatively large braincase, short robust structure, and large nose. Neanderthal males averaged 1.65 meters (5.5 ft) in height and had heavy bone structure. Females were about 1.53 to 1.57 meters (5 ft to 5 ft, 2-in) tall.
Cro-Magnon Man lived from about 10,000 to 40,000 years ago in the Upper Paleolithic period of the Pleistocene epoch. In addition to France, Cro-Magnon skeletons have been found in other parts of Europe and the Middle East. The skeletons of this early human have the same high forehead, upright posture, and slender bone structure as modern humans.
The Stone Age was a period of prehistoric time when most preserved human tools were made of stone. It is likely that tools made of other materials such as wood and animal parts (e.g. bone and sinews) were also in use, but seldom preserved. The almost complete absence of metal, with the exception of gold, is an indication of the Stone Age.
The Stone Age has been divided into three subperiods: The Old Stone Age (or Paleolithic), the Middle Stone Age (or the Mesolithic), and the New Stone Age (or the Neolithic). These periods are differentiated by the degree of development of man.
The Paleolithic Age was more than one-million years long and began during the Tertiary Period and ended about 10,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age (Pleistocene Epoch). Profound climatic changes occurred and affected the evolution of humans during this period.
The Mesolithic Age began around 10,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age and ended about 6,000 years ago. More efficient hunting tools were developed and more complex settlements built during this period than during the Paleolithic Age.
The first Neolithic cultures developed around 7,000 BC in fertile valleys of the Middle East. During this period agriculture became widespread and large-scale building construction.
Some Useful Links
The above discussion provides some basic information about early man. To further explore this subject, excellent publications or the resources of the internet can be explored. Following are some hyperlinks that can further assist with the evaluation and description of our prehistoric ancestors:
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