Ancient History 101, pt. 1 : Paleolithic Era.

First Humans / prehistory

Prehistory refers to the time before we have a written record of what happened. What we now know we have learned through two different disciplines:

archaeology and anthropology.

Until we have a time machine, this is the best we can do.


...are scientists who study objects that were made by humans. These objects are known as artifacts. Artifacts can be tools, instruments, pottery, buildings, weapons, etc.

So if you made something really cool in shop class, then don’t use it. Bury it. A thousand years from now, you’ll be giving a future archaeologist the chance to discover something cool. And on the very likely chance that between now and then an electromagnetic pulse has wiped out all electronics from Utah to Nevada and everywhere in between, then that precious little shop tool you made just might be the defining artifact that allows some intrepid archaeologist to write a book defining our entire century for the last several hundred years. Bury deep, bury deep. But not too deep.


...are scientists who are interested in the cultural parts of human history, such as:

-what people in a culture wore
-what people ate
-how they learned and created customs
-how they developed languages

So if you baked something really cool in the kitchen, then don’t eat it (see above paragraph under “Archaeology”)

First humans…

...showed up around Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia. We think.

The Paleolithic Ere is also known as "The Old Stone Age.’ If you’re trying to sound smart, use “Paleolithic.” If you’re trying to make sense, use “Old Stone Age.”

Because early on, humans made simple things out of stones.

They also banded together in small societies. They did super fun stuff like hunting and gathering and moving a lot.


They did not hunt and gather for fun. They didn’t have time for fun. They had time only for survival. This is what we have learned from the archaeologists and anthropologists. We have to trust them until the time machine tells us different.

Toward the end of this Era, humans began to make art and form religious behaviors. This was both good and bad.

Cool stuff They made:

hand axes
stone spearheads attached to sticks for large animals and bad humans
bow & arrow (see: William Tell, Robin Hood, Legolas)
harpoons and bone fishhooks for fish, sea animals, and slow mermaids
baskets for gathering and carrying berries and cool-looking rocks
small statues from stone and ivory
bone flutes for playing birthday music

Paleolithic humans were hunters and gatherers. This concept is difficult to explain, but I’ll try:

This meant they hunted. Men did the hunting.

This meant they gathered. Women did the gathering. Berries, nuts, and plants to eat; poison ivy for practical jokes, etc.

Hunting and gathering meant they had to move from place to place and follow grazing animals and the changing seasons. Always chasing the dream. Except they didn’t have time to dream. They were too busy hunting and gathering and moving from place to place. Chasing the dream.

So they had no permanent homes. Sad.

Words and Ideas You Oughta Know

B.C. = Before Christ
BCE = Before the Common Era (same as B.C.)
A.D. = Anno Domini “in the year of our Lord”
CE = the Common Era (same as A.D.)
Homo sapiens sapiens = wise, wise human
Nomads = move from place to place


One way humans communicated was by telling stories and myths. Myths were basically stories people made up to try and make sense of the world. They are often entertaining than the scientific explanations, which is why I would rather read a collection of myths than an encyclopedia of geologic terminology.

For art, they used animal fat to make paint. Ideally the fat was from dead animals who died quick and painless deaths of old age. Most of their art shows animals during a hunt. Because they were hunters and gatherers. Sadly, there is more art of the hunters than the gatherers. Or maybe the hunters tended to do more of the artmaking and painting.

As they say, winners write the history books.
And apparently, the hunters paint the paintings.

Eventually, all eras must end. That brings us to The Great Migration.

This is really where long distance travel begins. Why? To visit long-lost relatives? Sadly, no.

Humans begin to explore other continents (all of them besides Antarctica!) because they need to follow animals.

Because they’re hunters and gatherers!

Because that’s what they think they need to do in order to survive. And maybe it is. We’re not going to Monday-morning quarterback without a time machine. It is sad though, that there are no notable or famous vegetarians from this period.

So they slog around looking for wet climates that have lakes and fertile land. A little phenomena we call The Ice Age cools things down a bit and pushes our ancestors toward warmer regions...

...where they look for areas with fertile soil for growing their own food. 
You read that right. They’re thinking more and more about using the soil to make food, instead of just gathering and hunting…

Lennon and McCartney or McCartney and Lennon?

Hunting and gathering or gathering and hunting?

Things to argue about.


Introduction to Ancient History, from the Paleolithic Era to the fall of Rome, and how the lives, cultures, decisions, and actions of these periods affects our modern lives.

Education for most ages and for all curious people.
Written by Joseph Ivan Long with curiosity, humbleness, and a big grin.