Science, Tech, Math › Social Sciences Lower Paleolithic: The Changes Marked by the Early Stone Age What Human Evolution Took Place During the Early Stone Age? Share Flipboard Email Print Depiction of a Homo Erectus next to a Homo Erectus skull for comparison. Homo Erectus is an extinct genus of hominids and ancestor to Homo Sapiens. Science Picture Co / Getty Images Social Sciences Archaeology Basics Ancient Civilizations Excavations History of Animal and Plant Domestication Psychology Sociology Economics Ergonomics Maritime By K. Kris Hirst Archaeology Expert M.A., Anthropology, University of Iowa B.Ed., Illinois State University K. Kris Hirst is an archaeologist with 30 years of field experience. Her work has appeared in scholarly publications such as Archaeology Online and Science. our editorial process Twitter Twitter K. Kris Hirst Updated July 03, 2019 The Lower Paleolithic period, also known as the Early Stone Age, is currently believed to have lasted from between about 2.7 million years ago to 200,000 years ago. It is the first archaeological period in prehistory: that is to say, that period when the first evidence of what scientists consider human behaviors have been found, including stone tool making and the human use and control of fire. The beginning of the Lower Paleolithic is traditionally marked when the first known stone tool manufacture occurred, and so that date changes as we continue to find evidence for tool-making behavior. Currently, the earliest stone tool tradition is called the Oldowan tradition, and Oldowan tools have been found at sites in the Olduvai Gorge in Africa dated to 2.5-1.5 million years ago. The earliest stone tools discovered so far are at Gona and Bouri in Ethiopia and (a little later) Lokalalei in Kenya. The Lower Paleolithic diet was based on the consumption of scavenged or (at least by the Acheulean period of 1.4 million years ago) hunted large-sized (elephant, rhinoceros, hippopotamus) and medium-sized (horse, cattle, deer) mammals. The Rise of the Hominins The behavioral changes seen during the Lower Paleolithic are ascribed to the evolution of the hominin ancestors of human beings, including Australopithecus, and especially Homo erectus / Homo ergaster. Stone tools of the Paleolithic include Acheulean handaxes and cleavers; these suggest that most humans of the earliest period were scavengers rather than hunters. Lower Paleolithic sites are also characterized by the presence of extinct animal types dated to the Early or Middle Pleistocene. Evidence seems to suggest that the controlled use of fire was figured out sometime during the LP. Leaving Africa It is currently believed that the human beings known as Homo erectus left Africa and traveled into Eurasia along the Levantine belt. The earliest yet discovered H. erectus / H. ergaster site outside of Africa is the Dmanisi site in Georgia, dated about 1.7 million years ago. 'Ubeidiya, located close to the Sea of Galilee, is another early H. erectus site, dated to 1.4-1.7 million years ago. The Acheulean sequence (sometimes spelled Acheulian), a Lower to Middle Paleolithic stone tool tradition, was established in sub-Sarahan Africa, about 1.4 million years ago. The Acheulean toolkit is dominated by stone flakes, but also includes the first bifacially worked tools--tools made by working both sides of a cobble. The Acheulean is divided into three major categories: Lower, Middle, and Upper. The Lower and Middle have been assigned to the Lower Paleolithic period. Over 200 Lower Paleolithic sites are known in the Levant corridor, although only a handful have been excavated: Israel: Evron Quarry, Gesher Benot Ya'aqov, Holon, Revadim, Tabun cave, Umm QatafaSyria: Latamne, GharmachiJordan: Ain Soda, Lion's SpringTurkey: Sehrmuz and Kaltepe Ending the Lower Paleolithic The end of the LP is debatable and varies from place to place, and so some scholars just consider the period one long sequence, referring to it as the 'Earlier Paleolithic'. I chose 200,000 as an ending point rather arbitrarily, but it is about the point when Mousterian technologies take over from Acheulean industries as the tool of choice for our hominin ancestors. Behavioral patterns for the end of the Lower Paleolithic (400,000-200,000 years ago) include blade production, systematic hunting and butchering techniques, and meat-sharing habits. Late Lower Paleolithic hominins probably hunted large game animals with hand-held wooden spears, used cooperative hunting strategies and delayed consumption of high-quality meat parts until they could be moved to a home base. Lower Paleolithic Hominins: Australopithecus 4.4-2.2 million years ago. Australopithecus was small and gracile, with an average brain size of 440 cubic centimeters. They were scavengers and were the first to walk on two legs. Ethiopia: Lucy, Selam, Bouri.South Africa: Taung, Makapansgat, Sterkfontein, SedibaTanzania: Laetoli Lower Paleolithic Hominins: Homo erectus / Homo ergaster ca. 1.8 million to 250,000 years ago. First early human to find its way out of Africa. H. erectus was both heavier and taller than Australopithecus, and a more efficient walker, with an average brain size of about 820 cc. They were the first human with a projecting nose, and their skulls were long and low with large brow ridges. Africa: Olorgesailie (Kenya), Bodo Cranium (Ethiopia), Bouri (Ethiopia), Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania), Kokiselei Complex (Kenya)China: Zhoukoudian, Ngandong, Peking Man, Dali CraniumSiberia: Diring Yuriakh (still somewhat controversial)Indonesia: Sangiran, Trinil, Ngandong, Mojokerto, Sambungmacan (all in Java) Middle East: Gesher Benot Ya'aqov (Israel, maybe not H. erectus), Kaletepe Deresi 3 (Turkey)Europe: Dmanisi (Georgia), Torralba and Ambrona (Spain), Gran Dolina (Spain), Bilzingsleben (Germany), Pakefield (UK), Sima de los Huesos (Spain) Sources Agam A, Marder O, and Barkai R. 2015. Small flake production and lithic recycling at Late Acheulian Revadim, Israel. Quaternary International 361:46-60.Bar-Yosef O. 2008. . In: Pearsall DM, editor. Encyclopedia of Archaeology. New York: Academic Press. p 865-875.Gopher A, Ayalon A, Bar-Matthews M, Barkai R, Frumkin A, Karkanas P, and Shahack-Gross R. 2010. The chronology of the late Lower Paleolithic in the Levant based on U-Th ages of speleothems from Qesem Cave, Israel. Quaternary Geochronology 5(6):644-656.Pickering TR, Egeland CP, Domínguez-Rodrigo M, Brain CK, and Schnell AG. 2008. Testing the "shift in the balance of power" hypothesis at Swartkrans, South Africa: Hominid cave use and subsistence behavior in the Early Pleistocene. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 27(1):30-45.Stahlschmidt MC, Miller CE, Ligouis B, Hambach U, Goldberg P, Berna F, Richter D, Urban B, Serangeli J, and Conard NJ. 2015. On the evidence for human use and control of fire at Schöningen. Journal of Human Evolution 89:181-201.Stiner MC, Barkai R, and Gopher A. 2009. Cooperative hunting and meat sharing 400–200 kya at Qesem Cave, Israel. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106(32):13207-13212.Stout D, Hecht E, Khreisheh N, Bradley B, and Chaminade T. 2015. Cognitive Demands of Lower Paleolithic Toolmaking. PLoS ONE 10(4):e0121804.Zutovski K, and Barkai R. 2016. The use of elephant bones for making Acheulian handaxes: A fresh look at old bones. Quaternary International 406, Part B:227-238.