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Prehistoric Age

The prehistoric age covers the millions of years that transpired before human beings began to create written records of their life and of the world in which they lived. Archaeology and similar fields of study allow us to fill in the gaps and piece together an image of what life was like for our ancestors, including what kinds of flora and fauna they might have encountered.

Prehistoric Age Encyclopedia Articles

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Archaic culture
Archaic culture, any of the ancient cultures of North or South America that developed from Paleo-Indian traditions and led to the adoption of agriculture. Archaic cultures are defined by a group of common characteristics rather than a particular time period or location; in Mesoamerica, Archaic...
Encyclopedia / Prehistoric Age
Desert Archaic culture split-twig figurines
Stela
Stela, standing stone slab used in the ancient world primarily as a grave marker but also for dedication, commemoration, and demarcation. Although the origin of the stela is unknown, a stone slab, either decorated or undecorated, was commonly used as a tombstone, both in the East and in Grecian...
Encyclopedia / Prehistoric Age
Egyptian stela
Jōmon culture
Jōmon culture, earliest major culture of prehistoric Japan, characterized by pottery decorated with cord-pattern (jōmon) impressions or reliefs. For some time there has been uncertainty about assigning dates to the Jōmon period, particularly to its onset. The earliest date given is about 10,500...
Encyclopedia / Prehistoric Age
Jōmon settlement
Stone Age
Stone Age, prehistoric cultural stage, or level of human development, characterized by the creation and use of stone tools. The Stone Age, whose origin coincides with the discovery of the oldest known stone tools, which have been dated to some 3.3 million years ago, is usually divided into three...
Encyclopedia / Prehistoric Age
Uniface blade and three end scrapers.
Moche
Moche, Andean civilization that flourished from the 1st to the 8th century ce on the northern coast of what is now Peru. The name is taken from the great site of Moche, in the river valley of the same name, which appears to have been the capital or chief city of the Moche peoples. Their settlements...
Encyclopedia / Prehistoric Age
Mask of copper and gold alloy with eyes of shell, found in the Huaca de la Luna, Moche River valley, c. 400 bc–ad 600; in the Linden-Museum, Stuttgart, Germany.
Aurignacian culture
Aurignacian culture, toolmaking industry and artistic tradition of Upper Paleolithic Europe that followed the Mousterian industry, was contemporary with the Perigordian, and was succeeded by the Solutrean. The Aurignacian culture was marked by a great diversification and specialization of tools,...
Encyclopedia / Prehistoric Age
Aurignacian-Gravettian sculpture
Prehistoric religion
Prehistoric religion, the beliefs and practices of Stone Age peoples. The oldest known burials can be attributed to the Middle Paleolithic Period. The corpses, accompanied by stone tools and parts of animals, were laid in holes in the ground and sometimes the corpses were especially protected. In...
Encyclopedia / Prehistoric Age
The large burial mound at Newgrange, County Meath, Ireland.
Stone tool industry
Stone tool industry, any of several assemblages of artifacts displaying humanity’s earliest technology, beginning more than 2 million years ago. These stone tools have survived in great quantities and now serve as the major means to determine the activities of hominids. Archaeologists have...
Encyclopedia / Prehistoric Age
Dolmen
Dolmen, a type of stone monument found in a variety of places throughout the world. Dolmens are made of two or more upright stones with a single stone lying across them. The most widely known dolmens are found in northwest Europe, notably in the region of Brittany, France; southern Scandinavia;...
Encyclopedia / Prehistoric Age
South Korea: dolmen
Acheulean industry
Acheulean industry, first standardized tradition of toolmaking of Homo erectus and early Homo sapiens. Named for the type site, Saint-Acheul, in Somme département, in northern France, Acheulean tools were made of stone with good fracture characteristics, including chalcedony, jasper, and flint; in ...
Encyclopedia / Prehistoric Age
flint biface from Saint-Acheul
Mississippian culture
Mississippian culture, the last major prehistoric cultural development in North America, lasting from about 700 ce to the time of the arrival of the first European explorers. It spread over a great area of the Southeast and the mid-continent, in the river valleys of what are now the states of...
Encyclopedia / Prehistoric Age
Mississippian culture: Ocmulgee National Monument
Mogollon culture
Mogollon culture, prehistoric North American Indian peoples who, from approximately ad 200–1450, lived in the mostly mountainous region of what are now southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. Their name derives from the Mogollon Mountains in New Mexico. The culture is presumed to have...
Encyclopedia / Prehistoric Age
Mimbres bowl
Stonehenge
Stonehenge, prehistoric stone circle monument, cemetery, and archaeological site located on Salisbury Plain, about 8 miles (13 km) north of Salisbury, Wiltshire, England. It was built in six stages between 3000 and 1520 bce, during the transition from the Neolithic Period (New Stone Age) to the...
Encyclopedia / Prehistoric Age
Sunlight shining through a portion of the stone circle at Stonehenge, Wiltshire, Eng.
Ancestral Pueblo culture
Ancestral Pueblo culture, prehistoric Native American civilization that existed from approximately ad 100 to 1600, centring generally on the area where the boundaries of what are now the U.S. states of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah intersect. The descendents of the Ancestral Pueblo...
Encyclopedia / Prehistoric Age
The Cliff Palace, which has 150 rooms, 23 kivas, and several towers, at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado.
Magdalenian culture
Magdalenian culture, toolmaking industry and artistic tradition of Upper Paleolithic Europe, which followed the Solutrean industry and was succeeded by the simplified Azilian; it represents the culmination of Upper Paleolithic cultural development in Europe. The Magdalenians lived some 11,000 to 1...
Encyclopedia / Prehistoric Age
early bison painting
Hohokam culture
Hohokam culture, prehistoric North American Indians who lived approximately from 200 to 1400 ce in the semiarid region of present-day central and southern Arizona, largely along the Gila and Salt rivers. The term Hohokam is said to be Pima for “those who have vanished.” The culture is customarily...
Encyclopedia / Prehistoric Age
prehistoric farming cultures of southwestern North America
Megalith
Megalith, huge, often undressed stone used in various types of Neolithic (New Stone Age) and Early Bronze Age monuments. Although some aspects of the spread and development of megalithic monuments are still under debate, in Spain, Portugal, and the Mediterranean coast the most ancient of the...
Encyclopedia / Prehistoric Age
Malta: ?a?ar Qim temple complex
Paleolithic Period
Paleolithic Period, ancient cultural stage, or level, of human development, characterized by the use of rudimentary chipped stone tools. (See also Stone Age.) The onset of the Paleolithic Period has traditionally coincided with the first evidence of tool construction and use by Homo some 2.58...
Encyclopedia / Prehistoric Age
Venus of Willendorf
Neolithic
Neolithic, final stage of cultural evolution or technological development among prehistoric humans. It was characterized by stone tools shaped by polishing or grinding, dependence on domesticated plants or animals, settlement in permanent villages, and the appearance of such crafts as pottery and...
Encyclopedia / Prehistoric Age
The large burial mound at Newgrange, County Meath, Ireland.

Prehistoric Age Encyclopedia Articles

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