The Stone Age Unit
Thousands and thousands of years ago, the earth was in a “stone age.” During this time, the earth was in its “prehistory” time because prehistory means there were no systems of writing. People could not write things down, save them, and have future generations read them. So, if there’s nothing to read, how do we learn about the Stone Age? Well, the answer is through archaeology. Archaeology is the study of artifacts. Artifacts are things made by people long ago. Artifacts, such as arrowheads, pottery, and ashes are dug up and studied by scientists, or archaeologists. From these artifacts, we can tell how old the artifacts are, which tells us how long ago people were living. If scientists finds artifacts from 10,000 years ago, then we know people lived that long ago. Through artifacts, we can also discover where people lived, their migration (or movement) patterns and how long they stayed at certain places. Artifacts can tell us a lot about the prehistoric times, but it is a specific artifact that tells us even more...
Otzi the Iceman
Otzi the Iceman is the oldest body ever found. Otzi was a man living during the stone age/prehistoric times. The body of Otzi, preserved in ice, was found in 1991 in the Alps by some hikers. At first, they thought it was a doll because only Otzi’s head and shoulders were sticking up, out of the ice. Upon closer inspection, the hikers discovered it was a body. At this point, they thought it was a recent death, so they took pickaxes and jackhammers and tried to free the body. In doing this, much of Otzi’s clothing was destroyed. Finally, a smart person arrived named Dr. Henn and he stated that Otzi was an ancient and that they needed to be careful. Dr. Henn then ordered Otzi’s body to be moved to a lab where he found out that Otzi is the oldest body ever found! With Otzi, we can learn about what people from 5,500 years ago wore for clothing, foods they ate, tools they used, and what they looked like. Otzi provides us with many clues from the prehistoric times, but we can learn from yet another type of artifact...
Cave art is another way in which we can learn about the Stone Age. Long ago, people would create paintings inside caves. These paints, or cave art, tell us many things about the stone age time period. Many of these cave paintings have been discovered. The most famous ones are in the Cave of Lascaux. In these paintings, the people of the stone age portrayed their daily lives. They would paint things showing what they did each day and how they did things. In these paintings, we can see that they hunted large animals that have the appearance of deer. We can see that they would mainly use spears or bow and arrows as their weapons. We can see that they would hunt in packs because there would also be a bunch of people. We can also get into the minds of these cave art painters because in many of the paintings, animals appear. This shows that animals were very important to the daily lives of these people. Not just to eat, but to use their bones as tools/weapons and to use their hides as clothing, blankets and shelter. Let’s take a closer look at hunting.
Hunting in the stone age was done much differently than Hunting in today’s world. One simple reason: no guns in the stone age. The stone age people had to hunt. They depended on the animals for food but also for clothing and tools from their bones. This need of hunting resulted in the people of the stone age coming up with some creative hunting methods, which was important because the animals were very large. One animal they hunted was the Irish Elk. These animals were enormous. Standing 10 feet tall with antlers spanning 11 feet wide. These beasts were not taken down easily. To hunt these animals, the stone age people would light torches and try to scare the Elk off the cliff. The elk would run off the edge of the cliff and plummet to their death. There would be other people down at the bottom of the cliff waiting for the elk to fall, so they could be there to haul the animals back to their camp. Another method used was to surround a large animal and jab at the beast with spears until they were able to take down the animal. This method was commonly used to take down the giant bison. There were other animals in the stone age like the Sabre tooth cat, giant ground sloth and the woolly mammoth, but they were not as commonly hunted as the bison, deer, and elk.
Neanderthals Vs. Cro-Magnon
There were many types of human species during the Stone Age and Ice age. Two types of species we are going to learn about is the neanderthal and the Cro-Magnon. These two species of humans are quite different, with many different characteristics. Let’s first start with the neanderthals. These species were not like human beings of today. They were short and stalky, giving them a very powerful body. Their hair was quite long, their hands and feet were very large and tough, their head was really big with a very thick forehead. Their teeth were large molars, which was important for them because they ate a lot of tough, hard food. Neanderthals lived in the extreme cold, so it was important for them to have large noses, which generated heat for their bodies. They had great knowledge of berries. Their hands were very strong and they only used stone tools. They had very low intelligence so they were unable to think up more sophisticated weapons like the bow/arrow. Weapons commonly used by the neanderthal would be the hand axe, the club, and a torch. The cro-magnon is a far different species. The cro-magnon is like human beings of today. They had long legs and arms. Thin bodies and average strength. Their body type was more suited for warmer climates. They were smart and were able to develop more sophisticated weapons like a copper axe, bow and arrows, and a knife.
By far, the thing that changed things the most in the Stone Age/Ice Age is the discovering of fire. It is not known exactly how fire was discovered. Many scientists have different theories. Perhaps it was luck, or perhaps it was by accident. Some believe that a lightning strike showed the cave man the power of fire and they discovered how to use it effectively. With the onset of fire, meat was able to get cooked. Bodies were able to get warm in the cold, and the people of the stone age were able to advance to a more sophisticated civilization. Fire and the onset of the cro-magnon allowed things to move away from hunter/gatherer and towards farming, which mean a food source other than hunting. This move towards farming led to domestication of plants and animals, which provided a stable life for the people. They no longer had to move with the herd of animals and depend on those beasts for survival.